About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

GIVE THANKS

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I was encouraged this morning with news of a person for whom I have prayed for years who has decided to become a follower of Jesus.  I am excited to meet and hear the story of her move from sin and self to salvation. My heart overflowed with joy as I read the message. I opened the Bible and read Psalm 138 as an expression of my thanks to God.

Thank you! Everything in me says “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: “Thank you!” Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength. When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.” They’ll sing of what you’ve done: “How great the glory of God!” And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us. When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.”

Psalm 138:1-8 From The Message

Give thanks to the Lord. Great is His faithfulness and unfailing love.

Pastor John

BEARING BURDENS

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

My heart is burdened for people who are hurting and need encouragement.  The failures have piled up in a heap so large it blocks the view of the future. Hope has been erased. 

This may describe you today, and you’re wondering if anyone cares. Will someone please say something encouraging?

Recently I found something that was written by a man to a friend who was in need of encouragement. I share it with you because it was just what that person needed.  Maybe it will help you also.

“I thought I would write to try to provide more encouragement and let you know that I am praying specially for you tonight and tomorrow to be filled with the Spirit and full of encouragement.  I know you are weighed down by the things we discussed tonight.  You may not know what to pray, but the Spirit is interceding on your behalf and the Lord will give you strength.  Take comfort in the words of Paul from 2 Corinthians 4 which says, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  In our weakness, God’s glory shines through. 

Spurgeon put it like this, “Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly. Thank God I can suffer, thank God I can be made the object of shame and contempt; for, in this way, God shall be glorified.”  

We all fail and have weaknesses which cause us to fall short of God, but praise be to God that He has Providentially ordained for our failings to still bring Him glory and He still uses us in spite of our shortcomings/humanness.  Jesus, too, was misunderstood and rejected by many, and we as disciples are not greater than our master, so we can patiently endure criticism knowing our Lord endured worse and that when rightly criticized, He paid our wages already.  

Finish your race strong brother.  Keep looking to Christ.  We, as fellow runners of the race, will try to be there to keep pointing you to Christ and help you along the way (hopefully in the same way Hopeful was there to remind Christian of the truth when they were captured by the Giant Despair).  Love you dearly and praying for you.”

That’s what bearing another person’s burdens looks like. Love is the fulfilling of the law of Christ.

Pastor John

Non-Negotiables

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 16, 2021

Yesterday I was privileged to preach the ordination sermon for a good friend and former Elder at my church. It was an amazing blessing to be at the church he leads and see the visible work of the Holy Spirit. Two years ago there were only a few families that attended. Today the church was packed, with people also sitting in the overflow area. My friend will be the first to tell you it’s not because of him, but it’s because of the faithful preaching of the truth of Scripture and the practical applications of those truths to everyday life.

As I prepared my message that would challenge my friend and the congregation, I was reminded of the fundamentals that need to be reinforced in all of our hearts. May I present to you the following summary of what I think are non-negotiables for church health.

First, the church exists

  • To the glory of God,
  • for the equipping of the saints,
  • for the salvation of souls.

The church does not exist to follow our preferences or to affirm our identity apart from Christ. The church does not exist to build great programs but to build great saints. The church does not exist to make us comfortable with our sin or to conform to our culture or political opinions. The Church of Jesus Christ exists for the glory of Jesus Christ and to equip His disciples to bring others to Jesus Christ. Period.

Second, Jesus tells us three non-negotiables following His question to the disciples of who they thought He was. (Matthew 16:16-18)

“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said the church is built on the truth of Who He is, not what culture says and especially not the latest progressive interpretations. There can never be a compromise of the truth that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, He is the Savior of the world, and He is the soon coming King. We must never diminish Christ for the sake of exalting or enabling man.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” Jesus said the Church is His…not mine…not yours. He alone determines the purpose, authors the vision, and provides the resources. We may have innovative ideas, but they mean nothing without verification that they came from Jesus Christ. The church does not depend on our ideas or our way of doing things. Ideas don’t build churches. Jesus does.

“and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus said that nothing is stronger than the church that is built on truth. There is no power on earth or over the earth that can stop the purpose of God in a church that stays true to the Gospel.

It will be good for you to review these words of Jesus and make sure whatever church you attend agrees with them…or leave and find one that does.

Pastor John

JUMPING HURDLES

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LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The race of Life is filled with hurdles. Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” We are tempted by multiple influences to change course.  People seek to influence us to see things from their perspective rather than God’s.  Government seeks to influence us to conform to their will and not God’s. We give circumstances the right to influence our decisions. We allow emotions to dictate our choices.  Life is filled with hindrances to running a faithful life with our eyes set firmly on the goal of faithfulness to Jesus and loving others.

There is a solution to the problem of hurdles. Stop looking at them.  Successful hurdle jumpers do not focus on the hurdle, but rather they keep their focus on the finish line. This morning I have been enjoying the sight of the finish line as I studied the forty-eighth Psalm.  It is a glorious picture of the power and protection of God against all enemies. With our eyes fixed on Him, we can conquer the hurdles and keep running the race marked out for us by Jesus Christ.    

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress. For behold, the kings assembled; they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic; they took to flight. Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor. By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments! Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”  Psalm 48:1-14 

FAITH WORKS

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Galatians 5:6  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

Faith working through love.

That phrase has been piercing my heart for several days now. I cannot predict the total impact it will have on me, but I can share with you what it means right now.

  • God is love – 1 John 4:7-8
  • God demonstrated His love for us when while we were in our sin Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • From His love, God gave us the gift of faith. Ephesians 2:8-9
  • By faith we are delivered from sin. Colossians 1:13

Now, here’s where I am at today. My hands are actually shaking as I type because my spirit is leaping for joy.

Faith works because of God’s love.

Faith works to increase my love for God.

Faith works to increase my expression of God’s love to others.

Since faith is given in love, then love will be the expression of faith.

Today, I have the opportunity to show that faith works by how I love others.

So do you.

Pastor John

RIGHTEOUSNESS PERFECTED

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

When you hear the word HEAVEN, what do you think of first? Maybe you think of Jesus, and seeing Him face to face. Maybe you wonder what your mansion will look like. What will crystal-clear streets of gold will be like?  How big is the actual city of God? Will I see family and friends there?

All of these things and countless more will be revealed when we stand in the presence of God. But one thing we rarely if ever think about will also be revealed. It is something we will receive when we arrive. Not having it today causes us much anguish. But living now with an expectation of it is very healthy and helpful. The Apostle Paul describes what we will receive in Galatians 5:5.

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

While it is true that our standing before God has been declared righteous, not one of us is living in perfect righteousness. And it bothers us. We feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit every time we sin. We feel the shame of having disappointed our Lord. We struggle daily to do better. We know the hurt of having hurt the Savior.

But Paul says that when we stand before Jesus in heaven, we will be granted righteous perfection. Sin will be abolished. Shame will be destroyed. Hurts will be healed. Tears will be wiped away. We will experience perfect righteousness.

So instead of beating yourself up for every failure, remind yourself of what’s coming – the hope of righteousness. Today, through the Spirit of Jesus in you, by faith in His work for you, live in anticipation of what’s promised to you. Eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness perfected when we see Jesus.

Pastor John

FREE TO BE FREE

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 9, 2021

Our study of the book of Galatians moves from the doctrinal to the practical as we come to chapter five. Most of us prefer teaching that is practical, but without foundational truth known as doctrine, the practical can become nothing more than opinion influenced by wishes. Paul used the first four chapters of his letter to the Galatian churches teaching the foundational truth that salvation from sin is not earned by our works or worth, but is granted to us by grace through faith in the work and worth of Jesus Christ. Now he begins to teach us what difference it makes for our lives. He begins this way:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Here’s the simple truth that stumps so many people and holds them captive: since I have zero responsibility or ability to earn my salvation, I also have zero opportunity or ability to keep myself saved or to improve my standing with God. I have been declared righteous by God through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and since the work is finished, there is nothing more for me to do.

Please take some time to meditate on this truth. It is essential to understand it and believe it if you are going to be free from the bondage of self-condemnation caused by failure to measure up to standards imposed on you by others or by your own religious goals. Jesus Christ died to satisfy the requirements of the law on our behalf and to eradicate the condemnation that justly applies to all who fail to keep the law. Here’s how Paul says it in Romans and in Colossians.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:13-15

Jesus Christ died to set us free from the condemnation of the law. So live like you’re free. Don’t enslave yourself again to the demands of the law. Jesus expects you to live like your free because you are.

Pastor John

Make Music

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LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

When I Was young, I loved making music. I took piano lessons. I learned to play the trumpet. And in Middle School my band director asked me to learn a few more. I played the French horn, the tuba, the baritone, and ended up on trombone. Meanwhile, I also learned the bass fiddle and the marimba for a Tijuana Brass band. If you are under 60 you may not get that reference.

But one instrument I always wanted to learn and never did was the saxophone. So on Saturday night, when Danny Gokey’s tenor sax player came forward to play, I was enthralled. It lifted me to a place of worship of Jesus that came from deep in my musical soul.

Afterwards, Danny spoke about the saxophone. He reminded us that it was just a musical instrument, designed to make music but absolutely incapable of doing it on its own. It needed the breath of a master flowing through it. He reminded us that we are instruments, designed to make music that glorifies God, but we are incapable of doing it on our own. We must have the Breath of the Master flowing through us, and the Master must be playing the keys.

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Jesus Christ, the Master. Unless He is flowing through you and playing every key of your life, nothing you do glorifies Jesus. NOTHING. Only the things done by the Spirit and in the Spirit can glorify the Master. Without the Spirit of God breathing in and through us, we are nothing more than a musical instrument standing on a stage but producing nothing. You can hook all the microphones up to it you want, and turn the sound system up as loud as it will go, but there will be no music. None of us is capable of blowing our own horn to the glory of Jesus.

Every day we must become empty of ourselves so that we can invite the Holy Spirit to breathe in and through us. Only then will our lives make beautiful music for the Master.

Go on, make some music today.

Pastor John

GROANING

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LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Just a little over a year ago, as I was driving my dad home from the hospital, he suffered a massive heart attack in the car. His head fell forward and sideways as his arms stiffened in front of him. I yelled at him to see if he could still hear me.

No response.

I yelled again as I held his head in my hand to keep it upright enough for him to breathe.

There was no breath.

Then suddenly there was a deep exhale of air that came forth in the sound of a loud groan which I will never forget. It was a groan that revealed a groaning fulfilled.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage.

 2 Corinthians 5:1-6

I hear a lot of groaning these days. We groan about the experiences of the past. We groan about the present effects of those past experiences. We groan about politics. We groan about other people’s behavior. We groan about slow traffic. We tend to groan about everything that causes us emotional turmoil. It’s too bad that Christians groan so much over all the wrong things. When was the last time you groaned correctly?

I studied the uses of the word “groan” in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. It was very interesting to not find a single reference to groaning in the context of carrying emotional burdens unless they are directly related to being poor, hungry, or spiritually oppressed by another person. And every one of those references is in the Old Testament prior to God giving us His indwelling presence through the Holy Spirit.

There is only one use of the word groaning in the New Testament that refers to complaining, and it’s a command not to groan about obeying and honoring the leaders of your church. All the other New Testament usages refer to waiting for and praying for the return of Jesus. We have permission, along with all of nature, to groan for the return of Jesus. One commentator put it this way…

“We are a bride who, at the very moment when she was fully attired for marriage, saw the bridegroom die. She still stands with her fresh crown and in her bridal dress, but her eyes are full of tears.”

Is it possible that there is only one groaning that will ever be satisfied – the groaning to be glorified with Jesus? I say YES! All other groaning may be nothing more than complaining, and that is not the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us.

Pastor John

HE’S OUR RESCUER

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 26, 2021

I was extremely blessed to spend the weekend at OneFest, the Chippewa Valley Christian music festival. It was invigorating to see over 4000 people united in the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One song especially blessed me. It was by the group Rend Collective. I pray the lyrics also bless you and help you start your day with praise.

He’s our rescuer
He’s our rescuer
We are free from sin forevermore
Oh how sweet the sound
Oh how grace abounds
We will praise the Lord our rescuer

There is good news for the captive
Good news for the shamed
There is good news for the one who walked away
There is good news for the doubter
The one religion failed
For the Good Lord has come to seek and save

He is beauty for the blind man
Riches for the poor
He is friendship for the one the world ignores
He is pasture for the weary
Rest for those who strive
Oh, the Good Lord is the way, the truth, the life
Yes, the Good Lord is the way, the truth, the life 

So come and be chainless
Come and be fearless
Come to the foot of Calvary
There is redemption
For every affliction
Here at the foot of Calvary

Oh, he’s our rescuer 
He’s our rescuer 
We are free from sin forevermore (we are free indeed)
Oh how sweet the sound 
Oh how grace abounds 
We will praise the Lord our rescuer
We will praise the Lord our rescuer