Consider Others Ahead of Self

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 6,2020

When we are suffering, we have the tendency to become so focused on how we are hurting that we fail to see the needs of others around us. Our pain can cause us to feel incapable of reaching out to meet the needs of others. We can become bitter towards life and people because we believe others should be helping us.

When we see Jesus on the cross, in excruciating agony, we might assume that He is only focused on getting out of it, or at the minimum ending it quickly by dying. And yet, in His third statement from the cross, Jesus models true compassion for us. He shows us that we are capable, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to care about others when we ourselves are in need of care.

Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26).

As Jesus suffered on the cross His mind was still on others. He saw His mother standing near the Apostle John and said, “Woman, behold your son.” He then looked at John and said, “Behold your mother!” By doing this He was entrusting the care of His mother to John.

The law of God required the firstborn son to take care of his parents, and Jesus was obeying the law of God up until the end. Never once did Jesus fail to uphold the spiritual principles of the law. It was a part of His obedience to the redemptive purpose of God. The spotless Lamb of God would remain spotless, even while bearing our sin on the cross.

We all tend to get self-absorbed with our own troubles. We get so focused on the pain, and seeking solutions, that we fail to notice the people around us to whom God has called us to minister grace in their time of need.

Years ago my wife and I had a dear friend who was dying of cancer. She was confined to a hospital bed in her living room. She was so weak she needed help with every basic necessity of life. Yet she found the strength to send us a card of encouragement, and she even wrote out a story of her Journey for me, which I still have in my files. Up until the day she died, she saw the needs of others and did whatever she could to help those people.

How about you? Can you see beyond your own inconveniences right now, and reach out to others who are also in need? Can we all join together in a commitment to what the Holy Spirit says in Philippians 2:3-5?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Pastor John

Forgive Like Jesus Did

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 3, 2020

Human nature makes a mess of forgiveness. We even validate how we forgive with the excuse, ”But I’m not God.” Let me explain.

We tend to drag out the stages of forgiveness. We spend time contemplating the hurt, and discovering every area of our life affected by the hurt. After a period of time, we decide we don’t want the hurt anymore, so we forgive the person who hurt us – or at least we say we do – all the while establishing boundaries to protect us from additional hurt. As time passes, we loosen the boundaries based on varying levels of trust that have been re-established. Finally, after what could be years, we feel safe in fully restoring our relationship with the person who hurt us.

I speak from experience. This is our natural process of forgiveness. We are human, and memories combine with the need for self-preservation. We choose to protect both.

Not so with Jesus. His actions are to be our model of forgiveness. His love is to be the guide for how we forgive. Look at what He did on the cross. Not only did Jesus pray for the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, He also specifically forgave one of the thieves crucified next to Him.

When the thieves were put on the cross, both of them cursed Jesus. Both of them hurt Him. But later, one of the thieves had a change of heart.

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:39-42).

It was at this juncture that Jesus made His second statement from the cross.

“Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43)

When Jesus forgave, He immediately restored relationship. He didn’t take time to process and evaluate and force perpetrator to earn trust. Repentance – true repentance – requires total forgiveness.

Now, many of you right now would love to remind me of human nature, and that we aren’t God. But before you do, remember Who lives in you, and Who’s love is able to motivate your thoughts and actions. We are either motivated by the need to gratify the needs of the flesh, or we are living according to the Holy Spirit so that we do not gratify the flesh.

While I understand that we all have a long way to go to approach the incredible grace displayed by Jesus, I also know that I am challenged by the Holy Spirit from His Word to “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Every time I’m hurt, do I get better at moving through the process of forgiveness to reach the conclusion of restored relationship? Or am I satisfied to respond the way I always have and deal with hurt within my comfort zones? By the power of Christ’s forgiveness for me, I can also forgive others. Not according to human standards, but in the same way He forgave me.

Maybe today will be the day we can say with Jesus, “Today, you will be with me in relationship again.”

Pastor John

Father, Forgive Them.

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 2, 2020

People hurt us. We hurt people. We are much more likely to focus on the first of those truths rather than the second. In fact, we even dare to justify our hurt of others because they hurt us first.

Some hurts go deep, and last a long time. Forgiveness and reconciliation become distant ideologies because the root of bitterness as become a towering tree under which we find shelter. Why would I possibly want to forgive the person who did something so horrible to me?

This first of seven sayings of Jesus from the cross shows that He was thinking of others until the end of His life.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Even while experiencing the horrible pain of crucifixion, He was praying for the very people who caused His suffering. He came to earth for the purpose of forgiving sinners and He loved them and forgave them up until the end.

Isaiah prophesied these words of Jesus on the cross.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12

The great thing which Christ died to purchase and procure for us is the forgiveness of sin. It was His heart of love for sinners that brought Him to the cross.  Forgiveness is the foundation of Christ’s intercession for us. His shed blood on the cross speaks this: Father, forgive them. The greatest sinners may, through Christ, upon their repentance, find mercy.

His intercession for sinners includes the fact that we are ignorant of His eternal plan. “They know not what they are doing.” We must pray for our enemies and those that hate and persecute us in the same way. We must exonerate their offences, and not aggravate them. We must be sincere with God in prayer for the forgiveness of their sins, their sins against us. This is Christ’s example even while suffering the immediate effects of their judgment. If Christ loved and prayed for such enemies, what enemies can we have that we are not obliged to love and pray for?

So today, begin this way:

  1. Come to the Father with your pain.
  2. Ask the Father for the grace and mercy of Christ to forgive others.
  3. Bring the one who caused your pain to the Father.
  4. Ask the Father to forgive them.
  5. Go and do an act of kindness for that person, showing them the love of Jesus who sacrificed His life as an act of kindness for us.

Pastor John

Last Words

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The last words of people we admire tend to be important to us. Whatever grandpa said to us before he died sticks with us for the rest of our life. Famous people have said some really important things before they died, while others have said crazy stuff.

Elvis Presley’s last words were, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Not necessarily words to live by.

Henry Ford said, “I’ll sleep well tonight.”

Winston Churchill spoke bluntly and said, “I’m bored with it all.”

Movie star Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

Last words can reveal our hopes, our disbeliefs, and our beliefs. Last words may be an indication of what is most important to us. Last words can expose the true nature of our heart.

While Jesus was nailed to the cross and had breath in Him, he spoke seven times, and each one reveals His nature of love and His purpose for coming to earth. We get a clear picture of the Redemptive purpose of God in the last words of Jesus. Starting tomorrow, through Good Friday, we will look into the last words of Jesus and discover love and hope.

Here’s a thought for you from something Jesus said before being nailed to the cross. He is standing before Pilate who is questioning Him about what He has done that is deserving of the judgment requested by the Jewish religious leaders. Listen to what Jesus says in John 18:36-37.

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus declares three things:

  1. He is the King of a Kingdom that is not of this world.
  2. He came to this earth for the sole purpose of declaring the truth of this spiritual kingdom to the people of the world.
  3. Everyone who is called to His kingdom will listen to His voice and live according to the principles of the spiritual kingdom and not to build an earthly kingdom.

Think on these things. Review your standing with Christ. Contemplate His calling and how you are living in obedience to it.

Listen to the voice of Jesus. He alone is the voice of truth.

Pastor John

Now I Get It!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“Now I get it.”

Have you ever made that statement before you really got it? I have. In fact, sometimes it’s a deflection intended to end the conversation.

The disciples told Jesus that they got it before they really did. Just hours before His arrest, Jesus spoke plainly to His disciples about what His sacrifice on the cross would accomplish on their behalf. He said, “ In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

Let’s pause for a moment. Look deeply into what Jesus said here. When the sacrifice for sin was complete, and eternal life was guaranteed by the resurrection, Jesus guaranteed us personal connection to the Father. His sacrifice reconciled our relationship that had been broken by sin. In Christ, we can come boldly and directly to God the Father. God the Father loves us, and through belief in Jesus we are lavished in His love as His eternal children. HALLELUJAH!

The disciples respond to this news with “Now we get it!” Look at verses 29-30. His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

Jesus is not convinced they really get it. He points out something they may not have considered. “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” Jesus wants them to understand that believing on Him will be tough. Relationships will change. Comfort zones will explode. It will be hard to follow Jesus in a world that doesn’t.

After warning us of the dangers, Jesus gives us all an incredible promise to counteract our fears. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

So today, no matter the circumstances of life, Jesus has already overcome them. No matter the level of unrest, Jesus offers peace. Confidence and rest are available at the cross of Jesus Christ, where our relationship to the Father was healed.

“Now I get it.”

Pastor John

He’s Still Here

LifeLink Devotional

March 30, 2020

Really? I hear that a lot in people’s conversations today. It’s a one word statement of disbelief in what has just been said. It’s intended to make the other person reconsider what they just said and why they said it.

From what I can discern Jesus originated that question. Without ever using the word itself, He definitely questioned what the disciples were concerned about after He has just told them the reason He would be temporarily leaving them. We read about it in the Gospel of John chapter 16.

John 16:16-19 16  “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17  So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18  So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19  Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?

Here’s a brief background. In the Upper Room, celebrating the Passover, Jesus has revealed to the disciples the redemptive plan of God. Jesus would offer Himself as the Passover Lamb for the forgiveness of sins.

Then Jesus told them that this would require Him to leave them for a short period of time, and that they would experience great sorrow. He informs them that the sorrow is only temporary because He would see them again. He had explained to them that during His time away He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in them and be His ever-abiding presence with them.

The disciples immediately began to discuss what Jesus meant by saying He was leaving, and what He meant by “a little while.” Their focus was on what they would be missing.

Then Jesus says to them, “Really?”. Well, not really, but that’s exactly what He meant when He said, “Is this what you are asking yourselves…” Really? After everything I just told you about my sacrifice for sin? After the news I gave you that I would come and dwell in you through the Holy Spirit? This is what you are focused on? You care more about how long I will be gone rather than embracing the promise that I’m not gone at all? Really?

I wonder how many times we care more about how long Jesus has been gone, rather than the fact the He’s not gone at all? Do we not understand that His Presence is in us, and He is our constant guide and companion? I wonder how many of us suffer from a lack of joy because we think it’s only possible when we get to heaven?

Jesus addressed the disciples’ wrong focus with these words. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22) Just think, Jesus promises us that when the Holy Spirit comes, His joy can NEVER be removed from us.

Then He says this, in my words. “Don’t just sit there, start asking me for anything you need to accomplish my glory and the Father’s redemptive purpose. I will give it to you, and fill you with joy to the point of overflowing.”

Really? Overflowing joy? Sounds unlikely. But only if our focus is on what’s missing, rather than who’s already Present. If anyone is going to say “Really?” to me, let it be because I am overflowing with joy in spite of what’s going on in the world.

Pastor John

Courage to Stand

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 27, 2020

Here are some facts to consider:

  • The farther down the road of human government we get the further we get from the knowledge of God.
  • The more we depend upon human wisdom for answers to life, the further we get from the wisdom of Jesus Christ who created life and sustains it by His powerful word.
  • The more enamored we become with the treasures of this world, the emptier we become of eternal treasure.
  • The further we get from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the more filled we become with worldly treasures, the more likely we are to find a way to justify our choices and activities as pleasing to God.
  • The day has arrived when, in the name of pleasing God, selfishness will dictate the destruction of what actually pleases God.

Prior to His death on the cross, Jesus warned His disciples of such a day.

John 16:1-4 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

Today, and every day, no matter the risk or consequences, I, John van Gorkom, will stand courageously in the face of the world’s opposition and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and equipped with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, I will proclaim the grace of God through the Cross of Jesus Christ, and invite people to trust Jesus with their eternal soul.

Will you take such a stand?

Pastor John