About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

SOMEDAY

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 14, 2019

Someday. We use that term in a variety of ways. Someday I’m gonna get around to that. Someday it will turn around for me. Someday they will get what they have coming to them. Someday I’ll be able to retire. I’m sure there are literally hundreds of other applications of the word someday. But there is a someday coming that will be like no other day. It will be SOME day!

Attention is drawn to that someday over 100 times in the Old Testament. Generally it is referred to as that day. And what a day it will be! It will be a literal day of redemption for the world and its political powers. It is a day for which we patiently wait.

Isaiah 19:19  In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the LORD at its border.

According to Isaiah 19, there are six specific things God will do in that day:

  • There is a day coming when all the sins of the nations will be judged and punished, and it will be a terrifying day. (Isaiah 19:16)
  • In that day the culture will be influenced by the people of God, rather than the culture attempting to eliminate the influence of God’s people. (19:18)
  • When Jesus comes in that day, the nations of the world will be politically and socially centered on Him. Anyone who enters at the border will have their attention drawn to the Lord, and anyone who lives there will be under the authority of the Lord. (19:19)
  • In that day there will be far more than just political allegiance to the Lord: there will be worship. The people will not be captives in their own land, nor will they be forced to follow an unwelcome conqueror. They will be in love with the Lord who set them free from the tyranny of sin. They will worship Him. (19:21)
  • In that day the Lord will bring reconciliation between enemies. Nations and people will be brought together in the love of God and will worship the One True Living God, Jesus Christ. They will cooperate politically and socially, and there will be an end to all war. (19:23)
  • There will no longer be any aggression towards God’s chosen. All of Israel’s enemies will surrender to the power and authority of Jesus Christ and He will unite them as one. He will call those who are not Jews His people. He will reveal how He has been working in and through His enemies to fulfill His handiwork. He will affirm Israel as the people of promise and bring all the nations into His inheritance. (19:24-25)

Someday! Let that day come soon! But for today, may the Holy Spirit accomplish His work in my heart.

  • May I confess and repent of my sin.
  • May I begin to influence my culture and resist its influence on me.
  • May I focus all my political opinions and choices on Jesus Christ.
  • May my life be a living sacrifice to Christ as my spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1).
  • May I be the minister of reconciliation between people.
  • May I recognize and join the handiwork of God in the world as He brings about redemption and peace.

Pastor John

True Christianity

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Friday, October 11, 2019

John 3:3  In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Let me begin with a statement of praise – God is in control no matter how bad it looks.

Please bear with me as this will be long, but well worth your investment of time and understanding.

One of the things in our culture that looks bad to me is people’s free use of the word Christian to describe themselves. I would not in any way assume the right or insight to be able to know the true condition of their heart. But there are some facts about being a follower of Christ that are taught clearly in Scripture, and we can use those truths to determine the reality of a person’s statements.

First, no one can claim qualification for entrance into eternal life with God the Father unless they have come through Jesus Christ.

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Christianity is not one of the ways to heaven, it is the only way. Any reference to revering other religions as equal options is ultimately authored by Satan himself.

Second, it is imperative to know who Jesus is. What value is faith in anything or anyone that is not worthy of faith? Secular culture has minimized Jesus to someone only slightly higher than man. He is eternally God Almighty, equal in every way with the Father. Yet through His incarnation, Jesus became God in the flesh, dwelling on earth as both God and man in their absolute fullness at once. The person who claims to be a Christian and yet denies that Jesus is the One and Only God-Man is not speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God and is under the control of Satan. First John 4:2-3 says,

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,   but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Third, anyone who uses the word Christian to define their “religious” affiliation must be able to speak clearly and truthfully about the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. They must be able to clearly, and I might add boldly without fear of personal or political ramifications, proclaim these truths and state their unconditional belief in them:

  • All people are guilty of sin before God and by nature are deserving of death from the moment of their conception.
    • Psalm 51:5  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
    • Romans 3:23  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
    • Romans 6:23  The wages of sin is death…
  • Jesus Christ, who knew no sin and was never guilty of sin, became our sin for us and died on the cross to pay God’s judgment of death on our behalf.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:21  God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    • Hebrews 9:26But now Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 
  • Jesus rose from the dead to conquer death forever for all who believe on Him.
    • 1 Corinthians 15:19-22  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.   But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.   For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.   For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:13-14  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,   because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 
  • All who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will be transformed and no longer live according to the principles of this world.
    • Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 
    • Colossians 2:8-10  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
    • Colossians 3:1-3  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

Only if all these things are true in one’s life can they be called a Christian. Please do not be deceived by the improper use of the term “Christian” by so many today. Make sure you know what they believe and that their life and life’s choices reflect the truth of God’s Word.

Pastor John

Guaranteed Harvest

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, October 10, 2019

For the first time in many years we did not have a garden this summer. I removed all the old, rotting boards that surrounded it and spread out the dirt to create a new water flow  pattern in my back yard. Two factors that determined this outcome were the need to keep water from flowing towards my house, and the disappointing harvest from the previous year. Other than the best tomato plant ever, the beans were a bust, the peas were pathetic, and the zucchini were literally squashed. I had the biggest zucchini plants ever and they bloomed profusely, but only one out of every twenty blooms produced a fruit.

As I reflected on what went wrong, I was stumped. I prepared the soil properly. It was very fertile, made from compost. Maybe it was too fertile and is just producing top growth – I don’t know. I planted in the right places. There was plenty of rain. What went wrong?  I came to the conclusion that the tress in my yard had grown sufficiently to be blocking the sun for too many hours of the day. The garden had to go.

During the evaluation process, I remember asking myself a question. How can we seemingly do everything right and still not get blessed with a bountiful harvest?

That question applies to more than just gardens. It teaches us an eternal principle that God wants us to know. Here it is – Our plans and preparations are meaningless and unproductive unless God is our priority.

Isaiah 17:10-11  You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines,  though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.

Unless we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and building our lives on the Solid Rock, everything we do will ultimately fail and be destroyed. It doesn’t matter how technologically advanced we become. It doesn’t help that we do all the scientific research to increase productivity. It makes absolutely no difference that we have all the administrative and organizational skills to plan for every possible contingency. If our lives aren’t centered on Jesus Christ, and if our hope and strength aren’t in Him alone, all we are doing is feeding futility.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in the book of Hosea. It says,

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

So get out your spiritual roto-tiller (some of us might need roto-rooters), dig up the hard ground of your heart, and plant the seeds of his productive priorities. When you do, the harvest is guaranteed.

Pastor John

Every Need Satisfied

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I have a hard time imagining life back in the days of the early church. There’s no way we can really relate to what it must have been like almost 2,000 years ago. At least from a lifestyle argument this is true. But it is not true from a faith or philosophical view. The same beliefs that exist today in people’s hearts and minds were prominent back then. People’s thinking has not changed. Culture may have changed, and technology has certainly changed, but the heart of man has not.

Around the year 90 A.D., when the apostle John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, Greek philosophers abounded throughout the Roman Empire. They attempted to do what philosophers and scientists attempt to do today – explain life without recognizing the existence of God. One such philosopher was named Epictetus.

To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control, so we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. As individuals, however, we are responsible for our own actions, which we must examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.

This philosophy is not much different than the humanistic philosophy of today. Man has not changed his thinking. Under the power of sin, man still thinks he can control his actions so that they produce good. People still believe that through self-discipline and self-affirmation they can produce their own happiness. How wrong they are!

Epictetus was convinced that attitude and perspective were the keys to managing the problems of life. He wrote, “It isn’t your problems that are bothering you. It is the way you are looking at them.” He was partially right. His problem was that he taught that we needed to look at our problems through the eyes of fate and human ability, rather than through the eyes of God and His Sovereign control of all things.

That’s what God was trying to tell the people of the world through the mouth of Isaiah the prophet. Chapter after chapter come warnings to nations and people about the consequences of not looking at life through from God’s perspective. In chapter 17, the people of Damascus are told about what will happen to all their hard work that has been done only by looking to man’s ability – it will be obliterated. When it is, then they will finally turn their eyes back to the Lord.

Isaiah 17:7-8  In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made.

Look carefully at these verses. In the past, the people of Damascus had their eyes wrongly focused on three things – religion (the altars), work, and pleasure (Asherah poles, representing the sexual focus of their culture under the false worship of the goddess Asherah). Everything they did in life was motivated by the pursuit of one of these things. They sought to find some kind of peace through a religious experience; they sought to find some kind of worth through the work they accomplished; and they sought to find an escape from the troubles of life through pleasure.

Man has not changed. We still look to these three things to fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. It is only after we suffer the consequences of looking to these things four our value, that we finally turn and look to our Maker who knows how to satisfy our every need from the inside out.

So what are you looking at? Is it the things of the earth, or the things of God? But even looking at the things of God is not sufficient. Look to God Himself. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Pastor John

 

The Return of Joy

LIFE LINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

In my humble opinion it has been a gorgeous autumn season so far.  The weather has provided opportunities for outdoor activities and work to be done. Landscaping projects, fishing, golfing, deer hunting, lawn mowing, garage cleaning, Cranberry Fest, all have been more enjoyable when the weather is this nice.

Sometimes I wonder why, with so much to do and so many opportunities to do it, I am satisfied to sit and do nothing. There are days when life seems so mundane. Why do the things that used to bring joy seem simply average and at times even meaningless?

At first, I attributed it up to old age and tiredness. But then this verse was in my devotions this morning. In context, Isaiah is writing about the nation of Moab, but in application he writes about me…and you.

Isaiah 16:9  The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled.  Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards; no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting.

The more the Moabites became comfortable and proud of their position, the less they depended upon God. They had not yet learned that joy comes only from the Lord. It is a fruit of the Spirit of God abiding within us. It can only be experienced if the Holy Spirit is filling us. He cannot fill us if we are filled with ourselves. So the loss of joy is the direct result of the choice we make to focus on self.

OUCH!

But I needed that ouch. You may have also needed it. Take some time right now and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the parts of your life where He is not in control, or where His involvement is being restricted by your self-involvement. Then repent of those things and invite Him to fill you. The Joy of the Lord will return and you will be strong again.

Pastor John

Hope in Despair

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, October 7, 2019

The truth is, God is awesome and His timing is always perfect. A conflicting truth is that I forget truth #1 far too easily. But God, who is faithful and loving, gently reminds me to trust Him.

Nine years ago I wrote the following devotional, and entitled it “HOPE IN THE MIDDLE OF DESPAIR.” I was overwhelmed moments later with the awesomeness of God and His timing. I had no sooner completed writing the title when the phone rang. It was friend who drives truck and calls me occasionally from the road. Usually we jab each other about our favorite football teams (he hates the Vikings), and talk about everyday stuff.

Today’s call was different. There was despair in his voice. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that his mother-in-law, who has been homebound on oxygen for the last three years, was being transported to the hospital in Fargo with serious breathing difficulties and was probably not going to make it. Meanwhile, he was in Grand Island, Nebraska, 500 miles away.

As I listened to him my eyes were glued to the title and the Bible verse for today.

Isaiah 16:5  In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.

After he was done sharing what was going on, I told him about God’s timing, and that I had just finished writing the title. I read it to him. He listened tenderly. I read the verse to him. He listened quietly except for the occasional sniffle. I told him about the King who is coming, and that He is our only true hope. Sniffle. I asked him to put his hope in the Lord.

Every day we are surrounded with despair. It overwhelms us at times and it feels like there’s nothing we can do. We begin to believe that all hope is gone. It is at that moment that the Holy Spirit comes with the love of God and says, Put your hope in God. If you listen carefully, He is speaking to you right now. Maybe these words from the Psalms will help you hear Him.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.   My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?   My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”   These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving    among the festive throng.   Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and   my God. You are God my stronghold.  Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (Psalm 42)

Jesus Christ is our hope in the middle of despair.

Pastor John

Thank You for Tomorrow

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 4, 2019

So, what are your plans for the day? It’s amazing how proficient we have become with planning out our days. We have days planned weeks in advance. We have calendars on the fridge, in our purses and on our cell phones. We lock in dates for activities and trips and kid’s events and even church events. We get downright discouraged and sometimes frustrated when our plans don’t work out.  Plans can be self-centered and self-fulfilling. We make them because of the benefit we will receive. It is possible that planning has become our idol.

It is very easy for us to run our lives for our own benefit. What appears on the surface to be a kind gesture or an act of service may actually be an attempt to satisfy some fleshly desire. I suspect that much of what we have on our calendars are plans that are so significant to the building of our own little kingdoms that we would be upset if God interrupted them with His plan.

Here’s a test for you. For tomorrow, clear your calendar of ALL items that aren’t absolutely necessary for work. Take every personal item off. As soon as you’ve done that, close your eyes and pray this prayer – “God, thank you for tomorrow because I know the plans you have for me will be good.” Can you do it? Can you really be thankful for tomorrow when you have no idea what is going to happen?

Isaiah 14:24  The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.”

Here’s a story that may help us evaluate our attitudes towards our planning.

He was just a little fellow. His mother died when he was just a child. His father, in trying to be both mommy and daddy, had planned a picnic. The little boy had never been on a picnic, so they made their plans, fixed the lunch, and packed the car. Then it was time to go to bed, for the picnic was the next day. He just couldn’t sleep. He tossed and he turned, but the excitement got to him. Finally, he got out of bed, ran into the room where his father had already fallen asleep, and shook him. His father woke up and saw his son. He said to him, “What are you doing up? What’s the matter?”

The boy said, “I can’t sleep.”

The father asked, “Why can’t you sleep?”

In answering, the boy said, “Daddy, I’m excited about tomorrow.”

His father replied, “Well, Son, I’m sure you are, and it’s going to be a great day, but it won’t be great if we don’t get some sleep. So why don’t you just run down the hall, get back in bed, and get a good night’s rest.”

So the boy trudged off down the hall to his room and got in bed. Before long, sleep came—to the father, that is. It wasn’t long thereafter that the little boy was back. He was pushing and shoving his father, and his father opened his eyes. Harsh words almost blurted out until he saw the expression on the boy’s face. The father asked, “What’s the matter now?”

The boy said, “Daddy, I just want to thank you for tomorrow.”

When I think of my past, I remember that a loving Father would not let me go, and He reached down in his divine providence and lifted me out of a life of sin. And when I think of my future, I realize that my heavenly Father is planning new adventures for me that will surpass the past. So let the record show that on this day and in this place I will say, “Father, I want to thank you for tomorrow!”

Pastor John