Too Old To Learn?

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

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

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

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

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

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

OVERCOMERS

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 29, 2021

In the 1970’s an investment company marketed their services by promoting their leader as someone who spoke with knowledge, wisdom, and authority. The theme of every television commercial was this: “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

I’m usually not at a loss for words. However, when the Word of God speaks, I listen. Jesus made a statement in John 16:33 that needs no explanation, just validation from other verses of Scripture. Let the Word of God speak…and listen to it.

Jesus said, “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.”

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 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.

(John 16:33 ; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4-5; Romans 8:35-39; Galatians 1:3-5)

Now, go and overcome the world. The victory is already yours.

Pastor John

THE JOY OF PRAYER

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/THE-JOY-OF-PRAYER-evr5ht

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

It didn’t happen often, but it didn’t need to for me to learn that my brother had more pull with dad than I did. My next younger brother had a way with dad. I would see him push limits and get out of punishments, all because of his sense of humor. He had an in with our father that I didn’t. If I wanted something, I had a better chance of getting it if my brother was my mediator.

Jesus has been teaching His disciples that they could pray and ask for anything in His Name and He would do it for them. The validation for prayer is that Jesus and the Father are one, so what they ask of Jesus they receive from Jesus because He and the Father are always in agreement.

Now, to give them the full understanding of prayer, Jesus helps the disciples understand that when they pray they are talking directly to the Father and the Father is the One answering the prayer on behalf of Jesus.  

John 16:23  “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

There is much theological depth in what Jesus says. But here is a simple truth that encourages me: I no longer need a brother to help me get what I want from the Father.

Jesus is my eternal mediator based on His death and resurrection. He has redeemed me and reconciled me to God.

The Holy Spirit is my eternal Mentor. When I pray, the Holy Spirit initiates my requests so they are in agreement with Jesus.

I can make my requests directly to the Father. My requests will agree with Jesus because I ask according to the desires given to me by the Holy Spirit. The Father hears the requests through the Son who sits next to Him on the throne.  The Father answers my prayers for His own glory and the glory of His Son.

As the Father answers, the Holy Spirit fills me with joy.

It is thrilling to pray with an understanding that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in perfect agreement in accomplishing their will in my life. And when I pray in this way, I am overwhelmed with joy knowing that I am in agreement with Them.

Pastor John

Overcoming Sorrow

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/Overcoming-Sorrow-evom5l

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I had a lot of time to prepare, but it didn’t help. When the day finally came, I was overwhelmed with sorrow.

It was the summer of 1967, and my parents informed us that we had to pack all our belongings and move into a small cabin beside a lake. That part was fun, but nothing else about what was happening provided any pleasure for me. I was told we would be living in that cabin until my dad could find another job.

When September came, and school started, we were still in the cabin. It was not heated, and it was getting cold, especially at night. Then the day arrived that I was informed that we were moving in two weeks.  The next day I had to tell all my friends at school that I was leaving. I will never forget the pain of those days.

I cried myself to sleep the night before we got in the car for the long drive from Oscoda, Michigan to St. Paul, Minnesota. If not for time and a backward look at what happened later, I might never have recovered emotionally. But now, looking back, I can see the things God did in my life. And with social media, I am reconnected with many of those friends.

But when it was happening, I was so overwhelmed with sorrow that I couldn’t see anything else. I should have asked more questions about the decisions that were being made. I especially wish I would have asked the why and where questions. But sorrow clouded my judgment.

As He discusses the future with His disciples, Jesus seems a little surprised that they are not asking Him more questions about what He is telling them. He recognizes that sorrow has filled their hearts. In John sixteen Jesus says, But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”(John 16:5-6)

The sorrows of life can be overwhelming. They can limit or even eliminate our ability to see the good that God has designed to come from them.

People leaving and leaving people causes heartache that keeps us from seeing the potential for personal growth through new relationships.

Terminal illnesses overwhelm us with grief so we lose sight of the eternal healing that is ahead.

Personal failures drive us into depression and self-condemnation, keeping us from embracing the power of recovery and future success.

When we focus only on the loss we are experiencing, we are desperately sad. But when we see past the sorrow by asking the right questions, we begin to hope again, and hope brings healing.

If the disciples had only asked Jesus why He was leaving and where He was going, He would have told them. But they didn’t, and their hearts were overwhelmed with sorrow. It is not wrong to ask Jesus questions. He wants to provide you the comfort and hope you need to keep going.

Pastor John

FALLING

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/FALLING-evm8lo

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 26, 2021

Many years ago, when the kids were young, our family went roller skating with some good friends. We had a blast skating as fast as we could around the oval.  Some of us were even good enough to go backwards. And nobody crashed. That is until they turned the lights off and shined spotlights on a big ball in the ceiling. The ball was covered in tiny mirrors, all placed at different angles, so tiny beams of light shined all over the skating rink. Then they spun the ball.

As I skated around the circle, my best friend was behind me. My eyes were focused on the moving dots of light on the floor.  My head started spinning with the dots. It only took about fifteen seconds and I crashed to the floor. I had totally lost my sense of equilibrium. I could not stand up.  It was as if the music had stopped and all I could hear was my friend laughing hysterically.  All I could do was laugh with him as I crawled to the carpeted sitting area and sat out the rest of that song.

No one told me to keep my eyes up and not watch the spinning lights on the floor.  No one gave me the information I needed to keep me from falling.

I am so thankful that Jesus has given us the information we need to keep us from falling. The sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John starts with these words of Jesus.

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”  John 16:1

Isn’t that amazing? Jesus has told us everything we need to know to keep us from falling?  

He told us that He’s going to prepare a place for us and will come and get us and take us there.  We have an eternal treasure waiting for us so we don’t fall into the pit of materialism. 

Jesus informed us that He would come and live inside of us in the power of the Holy Spirit. With His presence in us we won’t fall flat on our faces in despair but will have the Peace of God that passes all understanding. 

We learned from Jesus that when we abide in Him we will bear much fruit that brings glory to God. Knowing that we a producing fruit for Jesus keeps us from falling into the pothole of pity where we question our purpose for living.

Jesus also told us that His presence in our lives will keep us from being discouraged when we are misunderstood, rejected, and hated by the world. With our eyes fixed on Him we will not become disillusioned or disoriented by the world spinning around us, and we will not fall. 

Jesus does not want us to fall. His Words have given us everything we need to stay standing, even when the world around us seems to be spinning out of control.

One of my favorite Bible verse applies very well to what Jesus said.  It’s found in Jude’s little letter to us. 

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  Jude 1:24-25

Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t focus on what’s spinning around you. Jesus won’t let you fall.

Pastor John