About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

God’s Gifts

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ephesians 4:7 – 8  7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  8This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I’ve always thought it to be the strangest Christmas song ever. Why would my true love give me eight maids-a-milking and nine ladies dancing? Why would I give my true love ten lords, eleven pipers, and twelve drummers?

According to Roman Catholic tradition, the twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas day and lead up to Epiphany on January 6th, the date believed to be the day the wise men from the east visited Jesus. Supposedly it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. Some contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor but refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn. There is no historical evidence to support this claim, but if you are interested in what the twelve gifts might represent, you should visit this web site – http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html.

My interest in relating that information to you is this – as born-again believers we have received far more than just twelve gifts from God, who is the True Lover of our souls. When we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, there are 31 specific things that God gives us as gifts. We have been studying some of them since Thanksgiving, but there is no way we are going to get through all of them before Christmas. So many gifts and so little time. But here’s the list in alphabetical order with their Scripture references so you can study them on your own. I hope they bring you as much joy as they have brought me.

Gifts God Gives                                Scripture References                                              

Daily Provisions                                 Matt. 6:33

Encouragement                              Rom. 15:5 ; 2 Thess. 2:16

Endurance                                        Rom. 15:5

Everything we need for life            2 Peter 1:3-4

Fullness in Christ                                Col. 2:10

Gifts to the church                           Eph. 4:11

Grace                                                Eph. 1:6

Himself as a sacrifice             Matt. 20:28; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:2; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14

His Son                                                John 3:16 ; Rom. 8:32

Holy Spirit                                           John 3:34 ; John 14:16 ; 1 John 3:24 ; 1 John 4:13

Hope                                                  2 Thess. 2:16

Inheritance                                       Acts 20:32

Joy                                                      1 Thess. 1:6

Knowledge                                       Matt. 13:11 ; Eph. 1:17 ; 2 Cor. 4:6 ; 1 John 5:20

Life                                                      John 5:21 ; John 6:27 ; John 10:28

Light                                                    John 1:9

Living Water                                      John 4:10

Ministry of reconciliation                 2 Cor. 5:18

New Birth                                           1 Peter 1:3

Peace                                                John 14:27 ; 2 Thess. 3:16

Power and authority                        Luke 9:1 ; 2 Tim. 1:7

Relief from trouble                           2 Thess. 1:7

Repentance                                     Acts 5:31

Rest                                                     Matt. 11:28

Rights of children of God                John 1:12

Spiritual gifts for serving Him           1 Cor. 12:7-11 ; Hebrews 2:4

Strength                                             Phil. 4:13 ; 1 Tim. 1:12 ; 2 Tim. 4:17

Thorns to keep us humble               2 Cor. 12:7

Unity                                                   Rom. 15:5

Victory                                               1 Cor. 15:57

Wisdom                                              Acts 7:10 ; 2 Peter 3:15 ; James 1:5

Print this list out and put it in your Bible. May I suggest that you use the month of January, which has 31 days, to study one of these gifts each day. It’s a great way to start the new year. It’s a significant way to strengthen your relationship with God. Enjoy the gifts God has given you. They are a living testimony to your value to Him. They will sustain you through difficulty. They will strengthen you in weakness. They will supply you with grace in every emotional and spiritual need you experience.

Accept them.

Unwrap them.

Open them.

Use them.

They are freely given to you by your One True Love.

Pastor John

Redemption Restores the Original

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ephesians 1:7-8  7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

In 2011, a major renovation took place on the ceiling art in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo spent four torturous years (1508 to 1512) on the monumental undertaking, painting in fresco more than 400 larger-than-life scenes of mankind’s origins and early history from the Bible on the ceiling of the Vatican chapel. Scaffolding was erected, and workers began the tedious and painstaking job of restoring the paintings to their original condition. Part way through the renovation, regular attenders to the chapel looked up and were shocked to see the bright and vivid colors of people’s faces and garments on the areas that had been restored. They were convinced that the workers were desecrating the original masterpiece by adding paint. They were so used to looking at the dingy and grayed colors that they believed that’s how they were originally painted.

When questioned, the crew chief in charge of the restoration explained what had happened. For years the chapel, prior to the installation of electricity, had been lighted by burning torches. Layers of soot and ashes had accumulated on the ceiling, dulling the colors of the painting. A careful removal of the dirt revealed the beauty of the original creation.

This is a perfect picture of God’s work of redemption in our lives. Years of sin have stained us. We have come to believe that this is how we were intended to look. We use the world’s palette of opportunities to attempt to paint new color onto our lives, but every brush stroke makes us wonder what really lies beneath. We have an insatiable desire to see the original version of who we were supposed to be.

That’s what God does when he redeems us. Redemption is the restoration of our lives to their original version. Just as the careful application of soap and water had washed away the years of soot from the ceiling, the gracious application of the blood of Jesus washes away the years of sin from our lives. The beauty of the Creator’s work is revealed. We are holy. We are blameless. We are the sons of God with full rights of inheritance. We are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing available from heaven. We have been lavished with the riches of God’s grace. We have been truly loved. We have been restored.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of redemption.

Pastor John

Competing Gifts

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, December 3, 2018

Matthew 4:8 – 10  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

God is not the only one who promises gifts to us. Satan competes for our loyalty with gifts that appeal to our personal and fleshly desires.

As Jesus prepares to begin His three-year ministry to the people of Israel and bring them the good news of God’s salvation, Satan attempts to thwart God’s plan. He tempts Jesus to take His eyes off God’s purpose for His life and turn them to the things of the world. He tempts Jesus with His physical needs by trying to get Him to focus on His hunger. He tempts Jesus to promote Himself in the eyes of people by telling Him to use His power and authority to do a miracle to impress people. Then Satan tempts Jesus to worship him with the promise of a gift. Satan says he will make Jesus the ruler of all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will bow to him. Fortunately for all of us, Jesus resisted all these temptations and waited for God’s perfect fulfillment of His purpose in His time.

Jesus was convinced that His Father would provide for His physical needs because He was focused on accomplishing the Father’s purpose and not His own. Jesus knew that His Father would one day glorify Him in front of all mankind, so He did not need to exalt Himself in front of people. Jesus also knew that one day God would make Him ruler of all the kingdoms of the world, and that by accepting that honor from Satan it would only make Satan the ultimate ruler and not God. Jesus knew that the gifts that God had promised, even though they required great endurance and patience to be realized, would be far greater than any immediate gratification provided by Satan’s competing gifts.

Every day Satan competes for our loyalty by offering us gifts that promise immediate gratification. Every day we are tempted to sacrifice our worship of the Lord on the altar of personal pursuits and pleasures. Every day we are tempted to serve self rather than God. Satan offers benefits that appeal to the physical, emotional, and financial goals of our flesh. Satan pursues us because he knows that if we accept his offers we will become his best servants: not because we are evil, but because our choice does the most damage to the cause of Christ.

The testimony we give to the power of the Gospel to transform lives is negated by the person who claims Christ but lives under the influence of the flesh. Such a person is Satan’s best employee. In exchange for his gifts of worldly pleasure, power and prosperity they have become Satan’s servants and have made a mockery of the gift of God.

Do you remember the old television game show called Let’s Make A Deal? Every one of us is a contestant on the spiritual version of that show. Two gifts have been offered, and you must choose.

Gift #1 has been fully revealed to us. It offers the guarantee of eternal life following an earthly life of surrender to Christ. It will require suffering, hardship, trials, trouble, and rejection by the rest of the world. But in the end, we are glorified with Jesus and inherit all things with Him.

Gift #2 has also been fully revealed, but for some reason most people choose not to see beyond the immediate glitter that they see. The gift offers wealth untold, acceptance by the world, and the promise that personal pleasure will fulfill all emotional and spiritual needs. Behind all that glitter is the sentence of death and punishment in hell for all eternity. But glitter blinds us. It is so appealing to our flesh that we are willing to gamble our lives on the hope that the experience of the glitter will somehow void the consequences of our choice. That’s why so many people keep choosing gift #2 – and losing.

If you’ve never chosen gift #1, today should be your day. Call on Jesus to save you.

If you have chosen gift #1, make sure you aren’t tempted to trade it in for any part of gift #2. Check your life right now and make sure, like Jesus did, that you worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

Pastor John

Give Everything

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 30, 2018

2 Corinthians 9:15  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

A man of God was traveling through the countryside in a time of extreme famine and poverty. It had not rained for months and there was very little food left. He stopped on the outskirts of a small village and saw a woman who was picking up sticks so she could make a fire. Her intention was to use the last little bit of flour and oil that she had to make a small cake of bread for herself and her son. It would most likely be their last meal. They had no income and no other family. Her husband had died sometime earlier and left her with nothing but the home in which they lived. Because of the extreme famine there was no market for homes, and even if there was there was no food to buy with the money. She had no hope of survival.

Boldly the man asked her to put her faith in his God, and said, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

Would she do it? Would she give up her last bit of food to a stranger? Could she believe the words of the man who claimed that his God would provide for her and her son? Why did she have to give him the first cake of bread? Couldn’t she just give him the leftovers? Why did she have to come all the way back from her house to deliver the cake once it was done?

These are all questions that must have been running through her mind. But in an incredible step of faith she went away and did as the man had told her. She used the last of her flour and oil to make a cake of bread over the fire and brought it back to the man. He ate it in front of her as she watched.

She returned to her home more hungry than ever but with great anticipation. Would the promise of the man of God be realized? Would there be flour and oil in her jars when she had left them empty.

She was overwhelmed as she looked into the two jars and saw that they were full. She had been given an indescribable gift of grace. She went back and found the man of God and invited him to stay with her, and there was enough food every day for the man and for the woman and her family. The jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by the man of God.

This true story taken from the Bible and the life of God’s prophet Elijah is a picture of God’s indescribable gift to us of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. God has promised that when we surrender the last of who we are and what we have to Him, we are given sufficient grace to meet our needs every day. Every spiritual, emotional, and physical need we have will be provided for by God when we give up the control of our lives and our possessions to Jesus Christ His Son.

Are you concerned about your finances and how to provide for the basic necessities of life? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. (Matthew 6:33)

Are you concerned about your physical condition and your health? So was the Apostle Paul, and when he asked God to remove the problem, God said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Are you concerned about your emotional health? Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Are you wondering about your spiritual life? How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

God’s indescribable gift of grace for every need is yours simply by accepting it by faith that He will do what He says. Let go of the last bit of flour and oil in your life and receive the unending love of God found in His Son Jesus Christ. He will save you and give you eternal life.

And if you’ve already done that, give Him thanks today and every day for His indescribable gift.

Pastor John

The Gift of Peace

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 29, 2018

John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Fear.

Just the word itself produces it. Immediately our minds are taken to places we don’t like to go. The top of a tall ladder precariously leaning on the peak of your house while you stretch to fasten the Christmas lights. The dark alley in a major city that is the only pathway to the parking ramp where you left your car. The airline jet which has just arrived and is your next flight and could be one of the models of jets which crashed recently. The grapes you plan to purchase at the store today which could be carrying another black widow spider like the one discovered in Minnesota recently.

Fear.

Outside influences and events can demolish our sense of security and safety. The world’s answer to fear is to remove ourselves from all such outside influences. Don’t climb the ladder. Don’t go downtown at night. Don’t fly. Don’t buy grapes. The answer to fear is to avoid anything that causes fear. We withdraw into the presumed safety and security of self.

We also do that in our spiritual lives. How many more missionaries to unreached people groups would we have if those called would conquer their fear of persecution and death? How many more witnesses for Jesus would we have in our communities if we would overcome the fear of rejection? We are living under the bondage of fear, when Jesus promised us the gift of peace.

Jesus distinguishes His peace from the peace the world offers. The world’s peace is from the outside in. For the person who lives life from the world’s perspective peace depends on what is or is not going on around them. They are only at peace when there is no danger. While the plane flies smoothly they rest. When there is turbulence they worry.

But Jesus offers us peace that starts on the inside and is greater than any danger on the outside. God’s power cannot be overcome by terrorism. God’s sovereignty cannot be overruled by politicians. God’s promises cannot be overturned by evil. God’s love cannot be overwhelmed by hate. Do not be troubled or afraid. The peace of God, which surpasses all our human reason and understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds safe and secure no matter what the external influence. (See Philippians 4:7)

Peace is possible because of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in our lives through the Holy Spirit, and our trust in His power, His sovereignty, His promises, and His love. What do we have to fear when we are living in the will of God, on mission with Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit? It is only when one or more of those three spiritual realities is missing that peace is threatened and fear is given license to influence us.

When we are walking daily in the will of God, accomplishing the mission of Jesus Christ, and enjoying intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit, fear is completely overwhelmed by the peace of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God when we are in Christ Jesus. Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35 – 39 NLT).

Peace.

The gift of Jesus that overcomes fear.

Pastor John

Quench Your Thirst

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

John 4:10, 14 10Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water…People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.  14But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Several years ago during the Wisconsin 9-day gun deer hunting season, I spent many hours with my sons and son-in-law in pursuit of the elusive whitetail. At one point during the hunt I decided to try and help the boys by walking through a couple of creek bottoms and thickets to see if I could jump any deer out in their direction. Besides being unsuccessful in my attempts, I became very hot and thirsty. I had no water with me, and where I ended up on my trek I was not near the fresh water in the creek or the vehicles. I had nothing to drink. All I could do was take off some layers of clothing and sit down in the damp grass and try and cool down. As soon as I had the energy, I went straight to the first source of water I could find.

Thirst is a powerful motivator, not only from a physical perspective but from the emotional, psychological, and spiritual perspectives as well. Jesus understood human thirst. We thirst for value. We thirst for meaning and purpose to our existence. We thirst for acceptance. We are driven to satisfy these thirsts by any means available to us.

The world offers several temporary thirst-quenchers. We believe value can be found in material possessions and career success. We believe the meaning and purpose of life can be found through scientific and philosophical examinations of our existence. We also believe that acceptance can be found through human relationships. We will go to any length to gain that acceptance, sacrificing security, careers, and health on the altar of sexual sin.

Jesus met a woman like that. She had attempted to satisfy her thirst for acceptance, value, and meaning in life in the arms and beds of men. She had come to the well to satisfy her physical thirst. Jesus offered her an opportunity to satisfy her real thirst. Jesus makes an incredible statement to her – the water I give…takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within…giving…eternal life. Every emotional, psychological, and spiritual need is satisfied completely and permanently when Jesus enters a life. His eternal life completely quenches the thirst for value, acceptance, and meaningful purpose in life.

When Jesus comes into a life, inestimable value is realized through the knowledge that God would send His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that He could bring us into a permanent and eternal relationship with Himself. Even when we were living in sin He saw our value and provided a way for us to become worthy of relationship with Him. No longer do we need material possessions and career success to define our value: our value is defined by the receipt of every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:3-8) God quenches our thirst for value for all eternity by giving us the value of His Son Jesus.

When Jesus comes into a life, unconditional acceptance is experienced through the surrender of self to the reign of Christ. God quenches our thirst for acceptance for all eternity by unconditionally accepting into His family those who come humbly to Jesus Christ.

When Jesus comes into a life, meaning and purpose are fulfilled through the understanding of God’s will and purpose for our lives. Back in Ephesians 1 again, verse 9 says, God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.

When we come to Christ and drink of His water of eternal life, we are brought into the inner circle of God’s will and purpose. Later in Ephesians Paul describes our purpose – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We have been called to a divine and eternal work – to accomplish God’s work. It is a work with matchless meaning and eternal worth.

So which thirst is driving you today? Drink from the living water of Jesus Christ, and thirst no more. Life will cease to be a pursuit of value, acceptance, and meaning, and will become instead an expression of the value, acceptance, and meaning you have been granted in Jesus Christ.

It’s refreshing to have your thirst quenched.

Pastor John

Gifts Bring Blessings

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In yesterday’s devotional we learned that giving is about expressing love. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God’s gift of Jesus to pay the price for our sin was the full and complete expression of His love for us. In His gift we see the nature of His heart.

Gifts that are given in love benefit the recipient. Jesus spoke of this when he said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Good gifts are those that bring a blessing to people.

There are numerous benefits that God provides to us with the gift of Jesus Christ. I’m not sure which of them can be prioritized as most important or significant over the others, so I won’t try to convince you of my opinion. Over the next few days I want to enjoy the blessings that will come from looking at some of them. Today I am overjoyed to consider that in Jesus Christ I have eternal life.

I have been thinking about eternity a lot lately. Not that I plan to go there any time soon – unless that’s God’s plan for me. One thing I know for sure is that heaven will be the complete and perfect experience of life to the fullest as God intended it to be lived. There will be no confinements of time and space. There will be no experience of sin, sadness, sorrow, or suffering. We will know and understand all things even as God knows us now. We will not be distracted from the glory and fellowship of God by the cares and concerns of the world.

Heaven will never end. We will not know that it had a beginning, and we will not be able to foresee its conclusion. All the perfections of life will become the reality of the present. Every negative experience of this temporal life on earth will be forgotten. Every glorious experience of intimacy with Christ will be perfected into permanence. All that was done for self on earth will be lost and gone forever. All that was done for Christ will be immortalized and treasured for eternity.

What an incredible and indescribable gift! In one act of love all the negatives are abolished and all the positives are established. If only there was a way I could give a gift like that to everyone I love.

But wait…there is a way. I can give them the information they need to choose the gift of God. I can share with them the good news that Jesus forgives sin and abolishes death. I can give them the opportunity to receive eternal life.

And when I do, I have given them the greatest gift of all.

Pastor John