Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

God’s Shovel is Bigger than Mine

The story is told of a farmer who was known for his generous giving and whose friends could not understand how he could give so much and yet remain so prosperous. One day a spokesman for his friends said, “We can’t understand you. You give far more than any of the rest of us and yet you always seem to have more to give.” “Oh that is easy to explain,” the farmer said. “I keep shovelling into God’s bin and God keeps shovelling back into mine and God has the bigger shovel.” –Herbert Lockyer

God calls us to be generous givers. Generous giving is pleasing to him and advances the gospel. As we shovel into God’s bin, he will shovel back into ours. And God has the bigger shovel.

When we give generously, we reflect God’s own lavish nature. God so loved the world he GAVE – his only begotten SON for our salvation. And Jesus emptied himself and became poor to make us rich.

But first of all, WHOSE MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?

We tend to think of our money as our own. We say, “I’m going to deposit MY paycheck.” “MY finances are really tight.” “I don’t think that’s how we should spend OUR money.” But in reality, our money isn’t ours. It’s God’s. And we are just stewards of it.

Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”

And in Ps 50:10-12 God tells us “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills… and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

Everything on earth, including you and me, belongs to God because he created it. And if you have repented of your sins and turned to Jesus Christ in faith for salvation, then God owns you twice. Not only did he create you, but he bought you with Jesus’ blood. There’s a church in nearby Murraysville, PA, named “Blood Bought Church.” It’s an unusual name and one non-Christians might think strange, but it’s a good reminder that Jesus owns us because he bought us with his blood. We are not our own.

All we have is a gift from God:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

What do you have that you did not receive? You may say, “I have wealth because I worked hard for it. I took my gifts and talents and was diligent and applied myself.” Who gave you your gifts and talents? Who gave you the ability to think? Who gave you the health and strength to be diligent? Who gave you opportunities? Who allowed you to live in this country where there are jobs?

In Deuteronomy 8:17-18 God says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

It’s not OUR money. God has LOANED it to us and we are stewards. God is watching to see what we will do with HIS money. And he wants us to be GENEROUS with it.

It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money. If you gave me $5000 and said give this to people who really need it, it would be easy for me. I’d have no problems giving away your money. If we think of our money as ours, we’ll be tempted to be tight. If we think of it as God’s, it’s much easier to give it away.

So what will you do today with God’s money? I suggest you shovel it out to your church or missions or the poor. But get ready to keep shovelling because God is going to shovel back into your bin, and God has the bigger shovel.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years of Pastoral Ministry

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Our example is every bit as important as important as our words

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

Paul told his churches to imitate him. People are watching us—our neighbors, relatives, fellow believers, and our children—and as one man said, our kids can smell hypocrisy a mile away. Once at a local deli counter, the man fetching my cheese said, “Hey, aren’t you the pastor at that church on Wayne Avenue?” I’d never seen him before but thought at the time, This guy knows I’m a pastor. What if I’d had a bad attitude if he sliced my Muenster too thick? None of us are perfect, but we should make it our goal to act like Christ wherever we are. Would people want to imitate you in the way you go through hard things, or how you react when someone blasts you in anger, or how you act when your plans go awry, or your kids disobey?

Every day we have countless opportunities to model humility, kindness, gentleness, holiness, thankfulness – to model Jesus—for fellow believers and a watching world. And our example is every bit as important as our words.

God’s people want to please him

This may seem ridiculous, but early on I thought I needed to convince people to obey Jesus against their wills. When I led worship, my unconscious mindset was: These people don’t really want to worship Jesus. I have to whip them into it. I’d give exhortations like, “Come on everybody, let’s worship Jesus like you really mean it.” I had to preach so as to whip them out of their lethargy to serving God. Now I think differently. Generally, God’s people want to please him. That’s why they’re there on Sunday. Sure, they get beat down by life and fall into sin or unbelief at times. They need to be encouraged to lift their eyes to Jesus and trust him, but he’s given them new hearts and his Spirit. Deep down they want to please him, obey him and worship him.

Anything good that happens is God’s doing

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12

We’re so prone to look at our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves. Look what I did! There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about something we’ve done. After all, when God created the earth, he looked at what he had created each day and saw that it was good. But ultimately, if we do anything good it’s because God has gifted us, helped us, and prospered us. We need to remember that all we have is a gift from God, and we have nothing but what we’ve received, and in response, try to regularly give him thanks for all he does for us.

In every negative criticism there’s almost always some truth

Even if someone’s criticism is completely off, there’s almost always something we can learn. James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Often when someone brings us negative criticism, our first reaction can be to defend ourselves or write them off. Someone’s critique may not be 100% correct, but I’ve found there’s almost always something I need to see or learn from it.

Once I was working through some things with an offended brother and a friend gave me this great advice: sit down with him and take notes, without defending yourself or responding until he shares all that’s on his mind. Then, if there’s anything to ask forgiveness for, do so. If you’re not convicted of sin, tell him you’ll seriously consider all he shared and thank him for caring about you enough to meet and talk. Later, after considering what he said, you might respond to some of his points.

Preach every message to yourself

Pastors, teachers, parents – preach to yourself first. Though I hope my teachings affect others, I want God’s word to search me first. Never “pulpit punch”. That is, never try to address a particular individual in the church through your preaching. If you need to talk to someone about something, go to them in private. Sometimes when people say, “Mark, you were preaching directly to me in that message. I felt like we were the only ones in the room,” I say, “Thanks for listening! I was preaching to myself.”

Disagreement is not disloyalty

Sadly, strong leaders sometimes interpret disagreement as disloyalty. Don’t be offended when people question you or disagree with you. Challenging one another can be really healthy. Husbands, if your wife disagrees with you, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t support you or stand behind you. She’s probably trying to help you. Pastors, you don’t always have to be right. Recently a fellow pastor graciously pointed out some areas of weakness in my life, not because he was being critical or disloyal, but exactly the opposite—because he cares about me and wants me to focus on things I’m good at.

Sometimes you have to take the high road

Once I was trying to work through some issues with a brother who I felt had wronged me. He just couldn’t see what I wanted him to see. We had a number of conversations and I just couldn’t make my point. As I shared my frustration with another brother, he said, “Mark sometimes you just have to take the high road. I think you’re wanting something from him you’re not going to get. You should just forgive him, pray for him, then trust the Lord that if he wants him to see something, he’ll show it to him.” Life-changing advice. The man never did see what I wanted him to see, but I was able to put it in God’s hands and it never bothered me after that.

I’ve learned a lot more over the years, but that’s plenty for now. Hopefully more to come in future posts….


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


7 Things I Would Do Differently if I were Raising My Children Again

My children are adults now and several have children of their own. We had lots of fun as a family, and I have lots of great memories of raising our kids. But in retrospect, I think I would have done a number of things differently. So, I share them in hopes that younger parents might benefit and not make some of the mistakes I did. Some things I would do differently:

I wouldn’t try to shelter them from every possible influence of the world.

Parents should try to be careful as to what their children are exposed to, but we can be overly protective. We homeschooled, kept our kids from playing public school sports, and didn’t let them go trick-or-treating. And we didn’t let our kids watch Sesame Street because Oscar the Grouch had a bad attitude.

Eventually, I came to realize you can put your children in a bubble and it still won’t guarantee that sin won’t sprout in their hearts. My wife and I thought that if we did all these things, it would guarantee our children would automatically follow the Lord. Now I’d consider each individual child as to the best kind of schooling for them. There’s no best way. The Bible just commands fathers to bring up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.

I would try not to express disappointment or shock when they confessed sin to me.

Though I tried to not to act surprised when one of my kids confessed a sin, there were times I dropped my head or got a pained expression on my face, which certainly didn’t make them want to open up to me.

I wouldn’t emphasize manners as much.

It’s good for kids to learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but at so many of our meal times I bugged my kids about their manners. I justified it by saying, “Someday you may be invited to the White House, and you’ll be embarrassed if you have bad manners while you’re eating with the president.”

I would try to encourage them more.

Although I did try to encourage them, I believe that proportionally I corrected them more. Now I would seek to reverse that.

I would try to draw them out more as teenagers.

There were times when our kids were going through really painful experiences as teens, and I was too quick to dole out spiritual advice rather than empathize and try to understand what they were going through.

I would try not to expect our kids to change their attitudes immediately.

Even now, I’m not always quick to have a good attitude, yet I often expected my kids to “snap to” and change their attitude on a dime. Wouldn’t do that now (I hope).

Along these lines, I also wouldn’t look for fruit too soon. I was looking for change and maturity way too soon. Adult believers are slow to change. Sometimes it takes many years to see the fruit of the Spirit in adults, let alone in our children.

This doesn’t have to do with my parenting, but I would also not judge other parents.

At times if another parent was having struggles with their child I would think they must be doing something wrong. Later on, I’d find myself having struggles with one of my children.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


How to be Happy When Someone Leaves Your Church

Not long ago, I called a woman in our church because I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to see how she was doing. She said her sister had gotten saved a few months back and asked her if she’d go to the local Assembly of God church, The Summit, with her. So she’d been going there, along with her husband, who never came to our church much, and he really liked the Summit and was going every Sunday. And her kids loved it there as well.

Then she said, “Every Sunday I just feel so guilty for not coming to our church.”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “I am so glad that you are attending there. And especially that your husband and your children like it. That’s wonderful. Do not feel guilty for one second. All the churches in our city are on the same team. There’s really only one church—and that’s Jesus’ church. I only want you to be where Jesus wants you and where you will flourish. So, don’t feel guilty at all. And know that any time you’d want to visit here you would be completely welcome.”

She was so relieved. I felt bad that she’d struggled with guilt for not coming here. And I was glad I could genuinely rejoice that she was going somewhere else. Because years ago, I would not have rejoiced. In my arrogance, in the early years of our church I would have thought we were the “best” church in town. Oh, we weren’t the only church in town, but we were just a little bit better than everyone else. We were more like the New Testament church than all those “traditional” churches. Our worship was more passionate. Our doctrine was more accurate. Why would anyone want to go somewhere else? The Lord’s patience and forbearance with stupid and arrogant believers (and pastors) is incredible. I know, because I’m living proof.

Back then, if I heard a new church was starting in town I’d think, “What do we need another church for? We’re here. People should come here. We don’t need another church.” I viewed other churches as competitors. If people went to those churches, there’d be less people to come to our church. I’m so glad God rescued me from that ignorant, conceited mindset.

Over the years, Jesus somehow got it through my thick skull that—amazingly, as it says in the Bible—there is ONE church. One body, one Spirit, one faith. As it says in Ephesians:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4–6

Now I regularly tell people that all the churches that preach the gospel in our city are on the same team. There’s no competition. When another church prospers, I rejoice in God’s grace to them. Our church isn’t the best church in town. Other churches will reach people that we would never reach. I can learn from other pastors and other churches. There are guys leading other churches who are far more astute in the Word than I am. There are more exciting and dynamic worship teams than we have. There are churches who are reaching more people and doing more in missions work than we are. I want to rejoice when God blesses other churches.

And as for new churches being planted or started here, the more the merrier. We have thousands of lost people in our area. We could use dozens more churches. There’s enough unsaved people to fill them all. And I pray the Lord will do that.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


What It Means and Does Not Mean to Honor Our President

Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

A couple weeks ago I wrote in a post that we should never badmouth the President, but honor him. We are to honor him because God commands us to, not because we deem him worthy of honor. Peter told his readers to honor the emperor, who was Nero, a wicked murderer. But what exactly does it mean to “honor” our President? Here are a few thoughts:

First, to honor the President means we recognize that God has placed him there.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1–2

No matter how much we disagree with or disapprove of our president, we must realize that God has placed him there to accomplish his own sovereign purpose, as God did with Pharaoh in Moses’ day:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Romans 9:17

Since God has placed our president in office, we should speak of him respectfully, not in a dishonoring, mocking way. We should also pray for him and bless him. God commands believers to pray for our leaders and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2). We should bless our president. Hey, if Jesus commands us to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28) (and I’m not saying our President curses us), then we can certainly bless our president.

Remembering that God is sovereign should lead us to pray that God would move upon our president’s heart, as it says in Proverbs 21:1:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Pray that God will direct and move the hearts of President Obama and all our leaders to promote righteousness, life, the kingdom, and glory of God. Ask Jesus to give our leaders wisdom. Ask God to turn their hearts like streams of water.

Finally to honor the President means we should be subject to him and our government:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:13–14).

To “be subject” or “submit” to our government means to obey the government. We may not be happy about taxes or regulations we must follow, but God calls us to do obey our government unless it commands us to sin.

What honoring our President DOES NOT mean

To honor our president does not mean we must agree with everything he says or does or that we must commend it or condone it. Or that we cannot speak out for truth and righteousness. To honor our president does not mean that we cannot work within legal means to oppose him and change policies we don’t believe are righteous or helpful. To honor our president does not mean we can’t express where we feel he is wrong.

To honor our president does not mean that we must obey laws if they require us to disobey God. If the President were to forbid us to proclaim the Gospel, we would have to disobey him. But we should obey and submit to all laws that do not cause us to sin, even if we don’t agree with them.

Fear God. Honor the emperor.

We seek to honor the President because we fear God. God is the only one we must seek to obey every time, without question. And this wonderful God we fear commands us to honor the President, who is in our God’s sovereign hands and subject to our God’s sovereign will.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


Why You Should Think Twice before Bad-mouthing Obama

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

Conservative ex-rocker Ted Nugent recently described President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.” Later he told Dallas-based talk radio host Ben Ferguson, “I do apologize—not necessarily to the president—but on behalf of much better men than myself.”

PJ O’Rourke said, “Barack Obama is more irritating than the other nuisances on the left,” according to brainyquote.com

There is even a Facebook page called “People Against Our IDIOT President Obama”

It doesn’t surprise me that people would make these kinds of comments about our president. People have probably said similar things about every president. But what grieves me is when I hear Christians making these kinds of comments about our president, or posting comments like these on Facebook.

Peter told his readers to “honor everyone.” Then after exhorting them to “fear God,” he exhorted them to “honor the Emperor.” Do you know who the Emperor was when Peter wrote this? Nero. One of the most wicked tyrants in history. He executed opponents, persecuted Christians, and even killed his own mother. It is reported that he had Christians dipped in oil or wax, impaled them on poles, and set them on fire as torches. In the Circus Maximus, he often wrapped them in animal skins and threw them to lions or dogs that tore them apart in front of the spectators. Yet Peter told believers to honor this man.

We must honor those in power above us because God placed them there and gave them their authority. Paul said, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

Therefore, God calls us to honor President Obama. This does not mean we have like him or agree with anything he does or believe he is a good president. But we must honor him in our hearts and with our speech. For a believer in Jesus to call President Obama an idiot is a sin, not just against the president but against God.

Let me ask a question to those who complain and rant against the president. Do you pray for him as much as you criticize him?

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, and intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). God commands us to pray for our leaders. Do you?

God takes his word very seriously. If we dishonor the President there may be consequences in our lives for disobeying God’s command. These consequences will be worse than anything the president does to us by his policies.

So, honor Barack Obama. Whether you like him or not. Whether you agree with him or not. If you don’t know how to honor him, it would be better to say nothing and simply pray for him.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


The Surprising Blessings that Overtake the Generous

One thing the “faith preachers” get right is this – if we bless others God will heap blessings on us.

Not because he has to, but because he has graciously promised to. It may not be in the way we expect; we might not always reap cash for cash. But we will definitely reap. The God who promised we won’t lose our reward for giving a cup of cold water to a disciple won’t fail to bless us when we bless others, especially to the poor.  Sooner or later, his blessings will overtake us like a tidal wave.

Here are a few reasons to give generously:

God promises you’ll be blessed for generosity to the needy.

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21)

God may bless you financially or he may simply fill you with joy. Hey, I’ll take joy any day of the week.

Light will break in your darkness

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. (Psalm 112:4-5)

After crying out to God in prayer and seeking God in his word, the best thing to do when in a dark situation is to give to others. God promises it will be well with a generous person.

God will bless your children.

He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)

Note this says our children “become” a blessing. It may not happen overnight. But in addition to continuing to pray for our children, give and keep giving, and pray for God to fulfill this promise.

God will protect, deliver, and restore you

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalm 41:1-3)

God will be honored

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

When we honor God, he honors us. He does this because generosity to those less fortunate reflects his gracious, generous character.

God considers your giving to the poor as a personal gift to him, which he will be faithful to repay.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

The poor won’t usually be able to pay us back, but God will make sure he does.

Others will water you

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:25)

You will reap in the same way you give.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

God will increase your capacity for every kind of good work.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)

God will enrich you to be increasingly generous.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Not only will we increase in generosity, but our blessing others will result in them giving thanks and praise to God.


Have I Lost My Salvation Because I Have Doubts?

I’ve known believers who have gone through dark nights of the soul. Periods of depression. Periods of doubt. At one time they strongly believed in Jesus, then went through a tragedy or fell into sin. As a result they questioned the reality of God, or slid into various “sloughs of despond” or struggled with doubts. I know someone who suffers with a bipolar disorder who for many years has wholeheartedly believed in and followed Jesus, but now at times is unsure if they will go to heaven. My own brother believed in Jesus and followed him for a significant period of time, then began to go through severe depression and doubts. Later, in his misery he took his life. Had he lost his salvation? Do others who doubt lose their salvation?

Let’s see what Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (JN 5.24)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. (JN 6.47)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (JN 3.16)

The disciple John stated his purpose in writing his gospel this way:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (JN 20.30-31)

When we believe in Jesus we HAVE eternal life. By believing we HAVE life in his name. We have passed from death to life. Once we have eternal life, we have it forever. We can’t lose it. We don’t pass from life back to death. We do not lose our eternal life if we struggle with doubts later.

John the Baptist clearly believed in Jesus. He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (JN 1.29). Then he said: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (32–34)

John the Baptist CLEARLY believed in Jesus. He knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He had visibly seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove. John had everlasting life. Yet, when he went through a dark period of his life after Herod imprisoned him, John began to doubt. He sent messengers to Jesus saying “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (MT 11.2). John was doubting. He was no longer sure if Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God who was to come. Had John lost his salvation? No! For he had believed and passed from death to life. He had believed and so received eternal life the moment he believed.

I know this raises lots of questions—more than I can address in a blog post. But here is a simple principle for interpreting Scripture: Start with the clear, then move to the unclear. It is absolutely clear in Scripture that when we believe in Jesus we have eternal life. When we have everlasting life we can’t lose it. Even if we doubt.

If you struggle with doubt, I would encourage you to pray. Ask Jesus to increase your faith. Ask Jesus to help you with your unbelief. He has been tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned. But he was surely tempted to doubt.  He’s anxious and eager to help us and he gives us faith and more faith.

(The main ideas of this post are taught in much more depth in Absolutely Free by Zane Hodges)


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

I don’t know about you, but I can be easily distracted when I’m praying. But over the years I’ve picked up some great ways to focus my prayers.... Here are 5 more ways I’ve learned to help me sharpen my prayers.

1) Write out your prayers

Often I will begin my prayer time by writing out things I’m thankful for. I write them to the Lord, almost like a letter, beginning with something like this: “Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, Thank you for….” or “Lord Jesus, Thank you for…” and I go on to write things I’m grateful for. Writing my thanks keeps me focused. Sometimes I begin a time of prayer by reading past thanksgivings I’ve written. I’ve also found that writing out other prayers has been very helpful as well.... As I pray the prayers I have written, I don’t restrict myself to reading them word for word, but use them as reminders.

2) Pray specific Bible verses

In my “family” section of my prayers, I have several Scriptures that are promises for parents about their children, like the following:

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Is 59:21

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37:25–26

Often I will read these Bible verses aloud, then ask the Lord to please do what the verses say he will do. Using Scripture when we pray builds our faith, for we can know we are asking according to God’s will. I often quote Ps 32:8 when asking for wisdom. I pray something like this, “Father you have said in your word, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’; so, I ask that you would please counsel me with your eye upon me. Please show me the way I should go in this situation.”

Lately I have been quoting Matthew 7:11 in my prayers:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I’ll pray something like this, “Father, you’ve told me that you give good things to those who ask you. So, I ask that you would please heal (insert name). Healing and health are good things, so I am asking that you give them this, according to your will.”

3) Make lists

In addition to writing out specific prayers, I have found lists to be helpful. I have a list of people I am asking Jesus to save. I have a list of “current needs” of family and friends. Lists help me stay on track when I’m praying. I don’t pray through every list every day, and I don’t always pray through a whole list. But at least I have it written down to remind me from time to time.

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

Use each phrase to trigger a “theme” for example: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.” Praise you that you are my Father. I praise you that you are in heaven, sovereign over all. Hallowed be your name—holy is you name. Praise you for your holiness and perfect purity and glory.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Father, please save multitudes in every nation. Please save my children and grandchildren. Please bring your kingdom rule into my neighbors’ lives, etc.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Father, please provide for my children. Please provide for us. Father, if it would be your will, please give me…..

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

Some have found praying in response to their Bible reading to be most effective for them. In your daily bible reading, stop and pray as God’s word speaks to you. For example, if you read, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” pray, “Lord Jesus, please help me to obey your word. Help me to “do” it, to put it into practice.” If you read Lamentations 3:21–23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” pray, “Lord Jesus, thank you for your unceasing steadfast love. Thank you for your mercies that are new this morning. Praise you for your great faithfulness and unceasing love for me. Please give me more and more hope.”

How about you? What are some ways you have found that help you focus your prayers?


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

How to Make a Real Impact in the Lives of Others

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… RO 12:6

We all have gifts and these gifts are varied and different. God gives his children ALL KINDS of gifts. Some gifts are public; some are done behind the scenes. Some are used when the church gathers; many are used outside church meetings. Our God is so great, so creative, so generous, so wonderful, we wouldn’t expect him to give only a few gifts. The God who created Monarch butterflies, Tiger lilies, cactuses, memosa trees, hummingbirds, and hammerhead sharks is lavish and overflowing and gives a multitude of varied and wonderful gifts.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. JA 1:17

God’s gifts are gifts of his grace. Undeserved, free, unmerited. God gives gifts because that’s his nature. He gives every one of his children at least one gift, and usually more than one.

All our gifts are gifts of the Spirit—they’re spiritual gifts. Even gifts that seem to be natural or “unspiritual.” Many days last summer a member of our church, Frank, would be out on a riding mower joyfully caring for the church property. He loves it. He reminds me of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire: “When I run I feel his pleasure.” I can almost hear Frank saying, “When I mow I feel his pleasure.” And Frank doesn’t just cut the grass—he meticulously trims around each and every one of about a dozen birch trees that line the road on our church property. Frank’s gift may seem to be natural—he just loves to cut grass—but it is a gift of serving from the Holy Spirit.

So let’s use our gifts.

God gives us gifts to serve others. They’re not for ourselves. If someone has the gift of serving it isn’t so he can serve himself. If someone has the gift of giving it isn’t so she can go out and buy herself presents. God gives us gifts to USE to bless others.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace 1 PE 4:10

Let us use our gifts to serve one another. We all have work to do. We all have a contribution to make. We are all called to serve each other. It’s not just the pastors’ job.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. EPH 4:11–12

The leaders don’t do all the work—they equip the saints for the work of ministry. It is the saints who build up the body of Christ.

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (16)

What if I don’t know what my gift is? Just start serving wherever you can and God will make it clear. Serve wherever there’s a need. As you serve, God will make it clear. Other people will confirm it. When I was a young believer, one of my friends needed some body work done on her car. I knew nothing about body work, but she needed help; so, I went to the auto parts store, bought the necessary materials, and fixed the dent in her door. I just wanted to serve wherever I could. And it became clear that day that auto repair was not my gift.

Don’t limit yourself. Don’t say, “Well, I have the gift of teaching so I can’t serve as an usher or a greeter.” I’ve had people come up to me and tell me it’s their first Sunday, and they have a ministry as a teacher. My first thought is, “So you have a gift of teaching? How about helping us set up chairs?”

Let’s use our gifts IMMEDIATELY

To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. MT 25:15–16

Serve in any way you can. If you can serve in any way in the church, great. But you can use your gifts in many ways outside the church. You can give someone an encouraging word when you run into them in Wal-Mart. You can pray for someone over coffee at the local coffee shop. You can give money to the church and the poor. You can serve in a pro-life or campus ministry. Every tiny act of service is pleasing to God. If you give someone a drink of water in Jesus’ name, you won’t lose your reward.

Sometimes life circumstances may limit us. If someone suffers from a sickness or other physical condition, God doesn’t expect them to be out washing cars. But they can pray for someone. Spurgeon’s wife Susannah became an invalid at age 33 and could rarely attend her husband’s services after that. She was confined to her bedroom for long periods of time, yet she encouraged her husband, raised godly children, and started a fund for supplying theological books to clergymen and ministers too poor to buy them.

You have a spiritual gift. USE THAT GIFT! Serve in any way you can, wherever there’s a need, big or small. Even if it seems “mundane.” As you serve, God will make your gifts clear and he will use you to bless others.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


4 Reasons to Pursue Humility

Our culture constantly tells us to build our self-esteem and think highly of ourselves.

Yet the Bible urges us to do the opposite. To pursue humility. It’s actually a glorious pursuit. And we have plenty of reasons to be humble. Here are a few:

We can’t control anything. We like to think we are in control. We make plans, write out our lists, book our flights, mark our calendars. Yet we can’t control a single thing.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13–15

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know what the next hour will bring. Or the next 5 minutes for that matter. One little artery in our brain could burst. We could get a phone call with news that will alter our lives permanently. I don’t live in fear of the unknown, but it is humbling to contemplate our lack of control over our lives.

We are only here for a tiny blip of time. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” This is humbling. We are nothing great. In the blink of an eye we’ll be gone. We can’t keep our own hearts beating or maintain our breathing. We can’t keep ourselves alive. We can exercise and eat well, and that has some value, but it won’t add a single hour to our lives. God has determined the number of our days.

We are limited in our self-knowledge. “Know thyself” said a philosopher. We can know a lot about ourselves, yet there is much we don’t. We can’t fully know our own hearts and motives. We can’t fully know our own weaknesses and sins or see them as others can. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” So often my first reaction to correction is to think the other person is wrong and that I’m right—right in my own eyes. That’s why we need brothers and sisters to help us, as it says in Psalm 141:5: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” It is a kindness when a brother or sister points out a sin or weakness. In our pride we are tempted to “refuse it.” But a humble person receives correction because he knows he is limited in self-knowledge.

Pride has terrible consequences; humility brings blessing. Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” I’d rather have honor than destruction. So I must guard against pride, which is always lurking in my heart. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (JA 4:6). I don’t enjoy it when people oppose me, but definitely don’t want God opposing me. Really good reason to be humble. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (PR 11:2). Destruction, the opposition of God, disgrace—pride has serious consequences. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (LK 14:11).

Humility will keep us from sin. A humble person knows he has fallen in the past in many ways and is capable of any sin. A humble person knows that if God doesn’t deliver him from temptation and evil, he is helpless to stand against it. A humble person doesn’t think that he is strong enough to expose himself to sin and not be affected, so he flees temptation. A humble person knows that God is working in him, yet he isn’t perfected yet.

These are but a few of many reasons to pursue humility. May we all seek to be lowly in spirit, like the most humble man who ever walked the earth, our Savior.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal... It’s Not What You Think

In 1994 Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a book which encouraged every company to come up with BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, which they would attempt to accomplish in a certain time frame.

A few years ago a pastor friend of mine once told me that he and his leadership team had set a BHAG for their church for one year. I believe it was to double in size. They planned how to attract more people, how to double their small groups, double their small group leaders, children’s ministry, etc. I believe he encouraged his leaders and church members to have individual BHAGs. I can’t remember if they encouraged giving BHAGs. Of course, he had at least one personal BHAG.

“Did your church achieve the BHAG?” I asked.

“No,” he said laughing, “of course not. We didn’t even come close.”

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. PR 28.20

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” LK 16.10

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ LK 19.17

Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, who planted numerous churches and advanced the spread of Christianity in much of the known world of his time, didn’t consider himself to be great. He regarded himself as a servant, a steward, and said the following:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 CO 4.1–2

Paul wanted to be faithful. Sure he made plans—he planned to visit certain cities in the hope of spreading the gospel. But often his plans were thwarted. He wound up in prison. Yet even in prison he sought to be faithful and spread the gospel in the prison.

So, this year my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal is to be faithful in little. The works God gives most of us are ordinary and mundane. Caring for our children, pastoring a small church, teaching sixth graders, working on an assembly line, being a secretary—these certainly don’t feel glorious. But God isn’t impressed with talent or “great” accomplishments. He’s looking for faithfulness.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d encourage you to be faithful in a couple things. First, in taking in God’s word. To me, this is one of the most important habits to cultivate. If only for a few minutes each day, read or listen to the Bible. Secondly, prayer. Again, if you’re not in the habit, take a few minutes each day to pray. Spend a couple minutes in thankfulness and lift your requests to him. Of course, you can pray throughout the day as well.

Seek to be faithful where God has placed you. Faithfulness is more important than talent or gifting. If we’re faithful in small things, God will increase us and cause us to be faithful in more and more. We don’t have to set Big, Hairy, Audacious goals. Besides, who wants to do something that’s big and hairy?


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.