Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving 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 five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

4 Ways to Live in a World That’s Crumbling

Do you ever feel like the world is cracking and beginning to crumble? ISIS, Ebola, changing sexual morals, disintegrating families, escalating crime, drugs, suicides…. I don’t need to elaborate. The world is shaking. It’s passing away. But believers in Jesus need not fear or be depressed, for God has given us an unshakeable kingdom.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (>Heb 12.28–29 NIV)

Live for the unshakeable kingdom

This world and everything in it is going to pass away. But we are receiving a kingdom that is permanent. It will last forever. It can’t be destroyed, let alone shaken. This means that everything we do for that kingdom will last. All we invest in that kingdom is secure. It won’t devalue; no one can steal it; it’s there and it will be there when we get to heaven. Every act of kindness we do in the name of Jesus, every glass of water we give a thirsty person, every dollar we give to the church or the poor, every meal we make for a family in need, every time we babysit for a friend—safe. Permanent. Every prayer we offer, every song we sing, every time we praise Jesus, every act of obedience—stored away in the unshakeable kingdom. In light of the unshakeable kingdom, why would we live for this world? Why would we give ourselves to sin and selfishness? Why would we spend all our time pursuing things that are fading, aging, crumbling and passing away?

Be thankful

The author of Hebrews says that since we are receiving a permanent kingdom “let us be thankful.” How can we not be thankful that Jesus rescued us from lives of futility and gave us eternal life in his kingdom? How can we not be thankful for an unimaginable glorious future? Let’s make thankfulness one of the main habits in our lives. Yes, we should thank God for all our material blessings, but let us thank him for the incredible blessings of the kingdom—the righteousness of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, God’s love in Christ, God’s protection from evil, his strength to conquer sin… innumerable spiritual blessings.

Ask God for grace

The phrase “let us be thankful” is often translated from the Greek “let us have grace.” Hebrews 4 tells us that in our weakness when we face temptations we should boldly approach the throne of grace for “grace to help in time of need.” Jesus is waiting to give us his mighty power to overcome temptation.

Have a healthy fear

Since we are receiving an unshakeable kingdom, we should “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” This isn’t just talking about our “corporate worship” when we gather with the church to sing and celebrate, but our lives. We are to offer God holy lives. We should live “with reverence and awe” or with a healthy fear of the Lord. We don’t want to take God’s holiness and majesty for granted. We don’t want to presume that we can sin and God won’t discipline us. We don’t want to give in to sin.  Remember “God is a consuming fire.” The author of Hebrews is referring to DT 4:23–24:

Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

God warned Israel, that though they were his chosen people and he would bring them into the promised land, they must be careful not to fall into idolatry, because he would punish them. God doesn’t take sin lightly. Nadab and Abihu didn’t fear God, and offered different incense than God had commanded:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (LV 10:1–2)

This doesn’t say that Nadab and Abihu went to hell. It says that fire came out from the Lord and consumed them. They ruined their lives in this world by their disobedience. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, who it would appear were believers, lied to Peter about money and God struck them down. The result was that “great fear came upon the whole church” (v. 11). Obviously, God doesn’t always consume us when we sin. He is patient, long-suffering, and merciful. But we shouldn’t presume on that mercy. A healthy fear of the Lord will help us live holy lives that are pleasing worship to God.

We who have believed in Jesus are receiving an unshakeable kingdom. Let us be practice being thankful, let us seek his grace to overcome sin, and let us cultivate a healthy fear of God. That’s a recipe for joy!

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 Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

Winter is coming. And I hate shoveling snow. But I’ve found a way to make it more bearable.

When I’m shoveling and I’m tempted to grumble I tell myself, “I’ll be glad for this snow next August when I’m eating sweet bread and butter corn on the cob.” The effects of snow aren’t immediately observable. But over the months as it lies on the ground and soaks into the earth, it has a hidden work and power. God compares the hidden work and power of his word to that of rain and snow in Isaiah 55:10–11:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in peoples’ hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions. If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts. When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted, and squirmy. I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids. Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or, “Oh, yeah, I believe in Jesus. I go to church.” They don’t cry out, “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost. And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.

But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.

In Isaiah 55 God compares his word to the rain and snow that fall from the sky. When they soak into the earth, we don’t see anything happening. We can’t see the hidden work and power of water on the seeds buried in the earth. Yet the rain and snow make the earth “bring forth and sprout” and produce a harvest months later. That’s how it is with God’s word. He sends it forth with a purpose and it never fails to accomplish that purpose. But we don’t see it right away. Snow in January produces corn in August. God’s word “SHALL succeed.”

Snow in January produces corn in August

So, pastor, keep on preaching God’s word, even if it seems like nothing’s happening in your church. Mom, Dad, keep on teaching children about Jesus, even if they’re fidgety and punching each other while you do. Believer, keep sharing the good news of Jesus with people, even if no one gets saved when you do. Keep reading God’s word and meditating on it, even when you feel dry and lifeless.

God’s word won’t return to him void. You might not see the results, but God will. And God will be successful. His word never fails.

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.

Someday It Will be Worth It

Life is really hard isn’t it? If you don’t think so, give it a little time.

Paul and Barnabas encouraged the saints to continue in the faith,“saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (AC 14:22). In 1 Peter 1:6 Peter says believers are “grieved by various trials.” And James tells us: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (1:2). And Peter tells us not to be surprised when we suffer:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 PE 4:12).

I recently said to someone, “Well, the good news is, when this trial is over there will be another one.”

No, I’m not a pessimist. I’m not an Eeyore. It’s just that I have found God’s word to be true—God takes us through flames and floods, disappointments and disasters. We live in a fallen world. Our lives are filled with blessings and peppered with pain. Sometimes heavily peppered. Unbelievably peppered. And God works a ton of good in us through our suffering—he produces humility, perseverance, compassion, and Christlike character in us. He makes us depend on him, weans us from the love of this world and makes us long for heaven.

But the best thing God does in our afflictions now lies ahead—they prepare “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” in heaven (2 CO 4.17). This is how Jesus gives me hope and gets me through. It’s knowing that someday in heaven I’ll be blown away comparing the weight of glory to the “peewee” afflictions I went through. We go through big time pain here. Some serious sadness, sickness, persecution, and hurt. But when we get to heaven we’ll have mountainous rewards. We’ll say, “What in the world is this mountain of glory for?” And the Lord will say, “That’s for the years you were sick.” And we’ll say, “What??? But that was NOTHING compared to THIS! This… this… this mountain of glory makes my suffering look like a grain of sand.”

Someday it will be worth it. Peter tells us:

For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 PE 2.6

If we believe in Jesus, and continue to trust him, we won’t be “put to shame.” No one in heaven will say, “Well, this is rather disappointing. Is this all I get for what I went through?” The sight of Jesus’ face alone will compensate more than a million times for every pain and heartbreak we go through now.

You won’t be disappointed. Keep believing in Jesus. Keep hoping in him. Keep clinging to him and abiding in him. Don’t give up, no matter how bad the pain gets. You won’t be put to shame. Keep rejoicing and giving thanks in all things. You can’t imagine your reward and the joys that await you.

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 Help a Christian Who is Trapped in Sin

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Ever been caught in a sin? The word translated “caught” in Galatians 6:1 means “overtaken.” It has the meaning of becoming ensnared. Overpowered. Caught in a trap.

Not only unbelievers, but believers can get tripped up by sin. Ensnared. Unable to break out easily.

How should we react?

How should we treat someone who is overtaken by a sin? What if someone comes to you and confesses they’re ensnared in pornography? Or they’ve been giving into anger or overeating. How should we react to them?

Unfortunately, believers don’t always react with much gentleness. When a teen confesses a sin, parents say things like, “How could you do such a thing?” or “What were you thinking?” Sadly, there were times when my children confessed sin to me that I expressed my disappointment by dropping my head or displaying a pained look.

God’s word says that if anyone is caught in ANY transgression we should restore them with gentleness. ANY transgression—believers fall hard at times. Believers get ensnared in bad things. Sin is deceptive and very often believers fall prey to its wiles. Although it’s disappointing and sad and at times shocking when a fellow believer confesses falling into a serious sin, we must be careful in the way we react to them.

Our goal: restore them to Christ

Our first goal should be to RESTORE them to Christ—“you who are spiritual should restore him.” We should point them to Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. To remind them that he paid for every single one of our sins on the cross. To assure them that Jesus is a sympathetic and merciful high priest who waits on his throne of grace to show them mercy and give them help in time of need.

Even if they are unrepentant our goal should be to rescue and restore them to Christ. Church discipline as described in Matthew 18 is not punishment, but a rescue operation that seeks to win straying sheep back to the Lord.

Gentleness, not exasperation

And as we seek to restore someone we should do it “in a spirit of gentleness,” not exasperation—“I can’t believe you did that again!” There’s no place for anger or disgust. Sin has painful consequences, and sinners are often hurting. Hurting people need to be handled with gentleness.

This doesn’t mean we can’t bring correction, especially if they aren’t listening or repenting. But we should always treat others as we would like to be treated.

And one of the greatest motivators for gentleness is to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We should never judge anyone caught in a sin, because next time it might be us. We could be tempted and fall into the same sin, or a different one, and find ourselves needing to be restored. Never think, “How could this person do this?” or “I would never do that!” It’s always best to think, “I’m a sinner, too. I could fall, too. Our roles might be reversed next time.”

I haven’t always done these things well. I haven’t always been gentle. I have been arrogant in my heart. But I want to be more like Jesus who didn’t wait for us to have our acts together before he had compassion on us. And I want to fear God, knowing that I can be tempted and fall just like anyone else.

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 Benefits of Having a Challenging Teen

What? Are you serious? What good can it possibly be to have a difficult child? Or a teen who struggles with sin? Or a child who rebels against you?

God causes all things—even a teenager’s sin—to work together for our good. Here are 5 ways:

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in dependence on God

Challenges with our children are as much (or more) about us than about them. Sometimes we discover that we are depending more upon ourselves than the Lord. So often we think that if we just do all the right things—have family devotions, discipline our children, love them, keep them from bad influences, educate them in a certain way—then they will automatically be saved and follow the Lord.

But doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God—to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in humility

When we have a child or two who do well, we can start to think that we are responsible for how well they are doing. Yes, we think, it is my parenting that did this. My hard work paid off. A difficult teen ends all that. We become aware of doing many things that failed. We become aware of making many mistakes and that the reason any of our other children are doing well is God’s grace. A difficult child makes us feel weak. It’s humbling to ask others for prayer and counsel. It’s humbling for others to find out we don’t have the ideal Leave It to Beaver family.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in mercy and sympathy toward others

Years ago in my arrogance, when others had challenges with their children, I would think they must be doing something wrong. It was somehow their fault. In my arrogance I had little mercy or compassion for others. Having a difficult teen changes all that. When you have been through challenges, struggles, and disappointments with one or more of your children, you become very merciful and sympathetic to others in their struggles. You know how much you appreciate the sympathy of others, so you extend it to others. You know how much you need mercy so you become merciful to others.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in patience and perseverance

Unfortunately, the only way to gain patience is to be put into a situation that requires it. Jesus usually works in our children little by little, often imperceptibly, over years, as he does in us. Sometimes we must keep praying for our children for years and years—even as they are adults. All we can do is plant the seed of the gospel, then we must water it with our prayers and trust God to cause the seed to grow in his own timing. This takes patience.

Think of how patient and long-suffering God has been with you. You aren’t always quick to change are you?

Having a challenging teen helps us to grow in love

Jesus told us to love our enemies expecting nothing in return. Of course, our kids aren’t our enemies. But we must love them, bless them, speak kindly to them, bear with them, and do good to them, even when they don’t respond. God loved us before we loved him, and he calls us to do the same. We rejected Jesus again and again, yet he loved us and came for us and died on the cross for us. Even now, millions and millions reject Jesus every moment of every day, yet he continues to love them. Whatever disrespect we receive from our children in return for our love is but an infinitesimal taste of what Jesus experiences every day from mankind.

So we must grow in love. We must seek the grace of Jesus to love as he loved, unselfishly, expecting nothing in return.

Our children’s struggles are as much about us as they are about them. So praise God and thank him, that as difficult as things are, he is at work both in you and your teen. Don’t give up, even if you see little change or fruit. God isn’t done working yet. The story isn’t over yet. God is not only working in your child, he’s working in you.

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.

When My Hair Looks Like a Van Gogh Sunflower

A funny thing happened on the way to work last week.

I’m in a hurry to get out of the house so I fly through my regimen of shaving, showering, brushing my teeth. I rub mousse into my hair, get dressed, and run downstairs. Grab a package to mail, then shoot out the door. On the way to work I stop by the UPS store, where I regularly mail packages, say hi to the young lady who always works there, and hand her my package. She says “hi” as usual, takes my package, runs it up. I pay her, then head toward the door.

When I get to the front door, I see my reflection in the glass, and my jaw drops. “What in the world?” I gasp. My hair is sticking out in 50 different directions. I look like a van Gogh sunflower. Like I sky-dived without a helmet then sprayed my hair. Like Medusa – you know, the mythological lady who had snakes for hair.

I feel my hair. It’s stiff and dry. It won’t flatten. In my haste to get out of the house quickly, I had moussed it but forgotten to comb it. (Sign of Senility #136).

When I see myself I turn and ask the girl who took my package (there was no one else in the store), “Why didn’t you say something about my hair?” She says, “I thought you might be going for something new.” Like the deranged pastor look. Like the I-just-escaped-from-the-institution look. Like I was on my way to audition for the role of a zombie in World War Z look.

So I drive home, rewet my hair, comb it, then head to work, looking as cool and hip as a half bald guy can look.

This escapade reminded me of a truth I heard years ago – we all have “blind spots.” Blind spots are things about ourselves we are unaware of or don’t perceive accurately. Faults, weaknesses or areas of our lives we just can’t see.

A few years ago I spoke to one of my kids in the patient, loving way I always do, and he said, “Dad, you sound angry.” “What?” I said. “I’m not angry. And I don’t sound like I’m angry.” My wife chimed in – “You did sound kind of harsh.” “Harsh? I’m not being harsh! I’m speaking completely gently and calmly.” Then one of my older sons said, “Dad, you were harsh.” Blind spot!

Because we all have blind spots, we need others to help us. We need others to adjust us and point out areas we can’t see.

David said 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….”

I need brothers and sisters who will correct me in love – at times “strike me.” Sometimes it doesn’t feel good, but I need to remember “it is a kindness” and “oil for my head.” 

But one of the problems with being corrected about blind spots is in our pride; we can refuse this correction – “let not my head refuse it.” Pride makes us think we’re always right, that we perceive ourselves perfectly. Pride makes us refuse loving input. Pride makes us say, “Harsh? I’m not speaking in a harsh way. I’m speaking completely gently and calmly.” Pride makes us think we know ourselves better than anyone else. Pride – sin – is deceitful.

So here are a few tips:

  • Remember you have blind spots. You don’t know where they are. You aren’t aware of them.
  • Don’t be so sure you are right all the time – you might be wrong – just maybe. (Obviously it would be extremely rare, right?)
  • When someone points something out, don’t be too quick to defend yourself or write them off – they might be right.
  • If someone criticizes you, they may have something legitimate to point out even if they correct you with a bad attitude.
  • If more than one person tells you the same thing, you should be doubly open to their observations.
  • If you just can’t see something someone has pointed out, thank them and tell them you will try to be more aware of it. Thank them that they care enough about you to point out a weakness or sin.
  • Ask them to please mention it to you any time they see it.
  • Remember, no one knows themselves perfectly. Only God does, and often he allows others to see our faults to humble and help us.

So please tell me if I ever show up and my hair looks like a van Gogh sunflower. I might have forgotten to comb it.

Blessed Are Those Who Are Gentle

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

To be meek is to be gentle, humble, lowly.

“The meek are the ‘gentle’… those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength, but who will nonetheless inherit the earth because they trust in God to direct the outcome of events.” ESV Study Bible notes

The first reason we should be meek is because Jesus is.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:1

If God, the infinitely great and all-powerful one, is gentle and meek, how much more should we be!

Meekness shapes the way we relate to our Christian brothers and sisters

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

We’re not to fight and scrape, intimidate or pressure our brothers and sisters to get our way. Rather we should relate to one another with complete – “ALL” – humility and gentleness.

Meekness changes our speech

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

The way to impart life is with a gentle tongue. Anger won’t produce God’s righteousness (James 1:20). Anger may intimidate others to do what we want, but it won’t change their hearts.

Meekness affects the way we correct opponents 

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth 2 Timothy 2:24-25

We can’t persuade anyone by getting in their face. Yelling “murderer!” at a pro-choice person won’t win them to our side. Calling someone who differs with you an idiot won’t persuade them you are right. When we correct opponents, we must realize we can’t change them. Only God can grant repentance. So all we need do is gently submit our correction then trust God to change their heart.

Meekness affects the way we treat people ensnared in sin

We’re tempted to judge those trapped in sin. “How could you possibly do that? I would never do that!” But the Bible tells us we should restore sinners gently:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

We are gentle when we help others who fall because we remember our own spiritual bankruptcy and sins. Each of us is capable of any sin. Remembering this will go along way to helping us restore others gently.

The world says the assert yourself. Put yourself forward. Grab. Fight. The Bible says be meek and you will inherit the earth. When we inherit something we don’t work for it but receive it as a gift. God gives the meek everything they need. Those who are meek find deep contentment and joy.

And someday we will inherit the new earth.

7 Powerful Steps to Overcoming Regret

Most of us have to deal with regret from time to time. Sins we committed in the past. Or maybe sins we committed yesterday. People we’ve hurt. Poor decisions we made.

I can be tempted to regret mistakes I made with my children. Time I have wasted. Failures as a pastor. Things I wish I had done differently in life and ministry.

Though we all have done things we can regret, God doesn’t want regret to rob us of our joy in him or cripple us in our glorious pursuit of him. Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:

Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:


1. Silence the accuser by remembering Christ saved us by his blood.

We have an enemy who loves to remind us of our sins and failures. He’s called in Scripture the accuser of the brethren:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12.10

If Satan can’t keep Jesus from saving us, he will do all he can to impede us in our walk. By accusing us he can get us to focus more on our failures than our Savior.

He would have us dwell on our sins or wallow in self-pity rather than serve others. How can we overcome this accuser? How can we move from our own feelings of regret to overcoming regret?

And they have conquered him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12.11

Christ’s blood has washed us clean of all our sins. Jesus paid for every failure, both before and after we believed in him. We silence Satan’s accusations by turning to Christ every time he accuses us.

Yes, we have failed, but every failure was paid for in full at the cross.

2. Remind yourself there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8.1

Early in my Christian walk, I struggled with condemnation. But someone taught me that every time I felt a stab of regret for sin, I should declare “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And to thank God for this truth. At times it seemed I had to fight condemnation every few minutes, but the more I thanked God the less I felt condemned.

Overcoming regret requires remembering that there is no condemnation for us.

3. Forget what lies behind and keep pressing toward the prize.

“ …But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Paul could have had many regrets. He persecuted Christ’s church. He threw believers into prison. He may have separated parents from children. He watched and approved when Jews stoned Stephen.

But he said he didn’t dwell on his sins. He said he “forgot” what lay behind. Does this mean he couldn’t remember his sins? No. It means Paul intentionally did not focus on them, but focused on the prize, and put his energies into pursuing Christ.

We too should forget the past and focus on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

4. Thank God that he causes all things, even our failures, to work together for good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8.28

God causes all things, even our sins, to work for good. This doesn’t mean we should sin intentionally, but it means that we can know even when we have blown it, somehow God will turn it to our good.

So when tempted to fall into the pit of regret for past failures, turn it into praise. Say, “Father I praise you, that you are sovereign, and somehow by your infinite power and wisdom, will cause even my failures to work for good.”

5. Remember it is God’s will for you to be fruitful and he has good works for you to walk in.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

We can be tempted to think that our failures throw a permanent shadow over our possible fruitfulness. No matter how much we have failed, God’s word says he has good works for us to walk in. So when we fall we need to get back up and get back to work. He’s not done with us yet.

My Dad, who died at age 96, spent his days serving others however he could – he painted birthday cards for everyone he knew, he took mentally challenged guys shopping, he delivered blood to nearby towns for the Red Cross. There’s always something we can do.

6. Turn regrets into thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5.18

Thank God in ALL circumstances – even in the midst of temptation to regret. Thank God that he saved you and has forgiven you of all your sins, that he works all things for good, that your failures remind you of your need for God, thank God for his patience and longsuffering with you, thank him for his steadfast love

7. Let your failures keep you humble.

Though we should not wallow in our regrets, they can help us be humble. I can’t look down on anyone because I have sinned in so many ways. My past failures remind me that I’m capable of anything apart from God’s grace.

I know I’m susceptible to temptation, so I need to pray regularly for God to deliver me from it.

God does not want us to be paralyzed by regret. So let’s not focus on them, but like Paul, focus on and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Original article can be found here.

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving 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 five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

How God Spared Us from the Ultimate Humiliation and Degradation

If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight. (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

How merciful God was in dealing with Israel. A convicted man was to be whipped in the presence of the judge. But he was only to be given a number of strokes in proportion to his crime. The maximum he could receive was 40 stripes, so that he would not be degraded in the sight of his brother. Some crimes might have deserved more than 40 strokes, but God in his kindness did not want to see anyone humiliated in front of his brothers.

But he did not show the same mercy toward his Son.

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (MT 27:26)

The ESV footnote for the word “scourged? says: “A Roman judicial penalty, consisting of a severe beating with a multi-lashed whip containing imbedded pieces of bone and metal.” These cruel whips would literally shred the skin of one’s back and sides.

God, who would spare a guilty man from excessive whipping so he would not be humiliated in front of his brother, did not spare Jesus from degradation. How dehumanizing it was when the Roman soldiers mercilessly whipped him, crowned him with thorns, draped a purple robe over his shoulders, placed a reed in his hands for a scepter, then bowed before him paying him mock homage. How degrading as they struck him and spit in his face. How degrading it was when they stripped him in front of everyone than crucified him like a criminal. How humiliating it was for Jesus to hang there gasping for air, while the crowd mocked and laughed at him in his suffering.

Jesus endured the ultimate degradation of becoming so identified with our sin that his own Father poured out his wrath upon him.

He did all that for us – guilty sinners – we deserved to be degraded and humiliated in the ultimate sense. To perish in hell for eternity. But when we believe in Jesus and call upon him to save us, instead of receiving the degradation we deserve, he clothes us with his righteousness, adopts us as his own children, crowns us with glory. What an incredible, amazing God we serve!

O Lord Jesus, you were scourged and humiliated and degraded for me that I might be lifted up, adopted as a child of God, and share in your inheritance. All glory, honor and praise to you. 

Photo credit: ©thinkstock/mbolina

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving 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 five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

If You Want To Get To Me You’ll Have To Go Through…

When Jesus saved me, I was amazed, grateful and relieved that he would forgive my sins. But I could never have fathomed the depths of the relationship he had brought me into.

Believers aren’t simply forgiven – they are in union with God – one with him. Paul says we are “IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

We are IN God the Father! When God saves us he joins us to himself. Makes us one with himself. What security! What joy! It’s not like we are here and God is way up there somewhere.The almighty Creator of the universe has joined himself to us who are but specks of dust.

Being IN God means that nothing can get to us unless it first goes through him. Satan can’t touch you unless he goes through God. Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job. Each time God would say, “Okay you can go this far but no further. You can do this but you can’t do that.”

No affliction, no wicked person, no sickness – nothing can attack us without God’s permission because we are IN God the Father.

When I was 14, my dad was transferred to Pennsylvania. As a new kid in school, a couple bullies targeted me for some of their harassment. One day, as I stood in line to shoot baskets in gym class, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the back of my neck. One of the Junior High’s finest happened to be in line right behind me. Apparently he got bored, for he began to give me hard karate chops in the back of the neck. Each chop sent electrifying pain to my head – after about three or four chops my head was pounding. Suddenly another kid, named John, who was built like a football player stepped between me and the bully. Suddenly no more karate chops. For the bully to get to me he had to go through John. I’m still grateful to this day that John interposed and rescued me. Remember, if you are “in God” nothing can get to you unless it first goes through him.

We are also “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are one with the Lord of the universe. Jesus has ascended to heaven where he is enthroned on high as King of Kings and Lord of lords and we are one with him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places Ephesians 1:3

Every spiritual blessing there is is in Christ – and we who believe are in him, so we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places! Not only that but because we are in Christ nothing will ever be able to remove us from him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… 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. Romans 8:35-39

We are in Jesus – joined to him – one with him. The church is his body – he’s the head and we’re his hands and feet. We’re joined to him organically.

Jesus said to Saul: “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t think he had been persecuting Jesus. He’d been arresting Christians. Yet Jesus says Saul was doing it to him.

Every Christian will be persecuted at one time or another in some way. But don’t forget you’re in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever anyone does to you they do to Christ. Do you think he’ll take that lightly? Do you think he won’t protect you? How could God not take care of those who are one with him?

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, then you are IN God the Father and IN the Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t be any closer. Don’t forget you are in God. He’ll take care of you. He’ll protect you and provide for you.

IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there any better place to be?

Why We Can Trust God's Promises

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in the fields of gold

–Sting, Fields of Gold

I’ve made promises that I’ve broken. I don’t break them intentionally, sometimes I just forget. After all, I’m only human. If you base your hope on my word, sooner or later, you’ll be disappointed. I might get a flat tire on the way. I might get sick. Or die. Or get distracted. Even Sting can’t guarantee what he’ll do in the days still left.

But God never breaks a single promise. He tells us why in Numbers 23:19

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

We Can Count on God’s Promises Because of God’s Character

First of all, he’s not a man. He’s not human. He doesn’t have a fallen nature. He’s never sinned, never lied. He is the essence of righteousness and can’t lie. He is the truth and only speaks the truth.

We Can Count On God’s Promises Because God is Unchanging

Unlike us, God never changes in his person or his purposes. We may change our minds as we age, or our situation changes or we get more information. But God doesn’t decide to do something then a thousand years later realize it was a bad decision.

We Can Count On God’s Promises Because of His Infinite Wisdom

Because of his infinite wisdom, when he makes a promise, it’s the best possible promise he can make. He won’t discover later he could have made a better promise. God never needs to make course corrections. He doesn’t make it up as he goes along. He knows the end from the beginning.

If he has said it, he will do it. If he has spoken it, he will fulfill it. He’s not messing around with your life.

For these reasons, we should trust God’s promises and heed his warnings

He’s going to do what he said. Sooner or later. Even if it hasn’t happened yet. Even if you can’t see how he could possibly fulfill it. Even if your eyes, ears, mind and feelings are screaming it can’t happen.

If God has made unshakable promises, we should devour his word

I want to know all God’s promised. I want to know what I can pray for. What I can count on. What to hang my hope on when everything around looks bleak.

If we drift from reading God’s word, our faith will wane, our prayer life will wane, our joy will wane and our hope will wane.

So let’s read God’s word, grab on to his promises, then say in the face of hopelessness, God is not a man. He won’t lie or change his mind. He said it, so he’ll do it. I believe it. Thank you, my unchanging Lord!

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving 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 five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

Whose Dream Are You Living For?

God has given humans the incredible ability to dream.

We can imagine the fun we’ll have on vacation, or hitting the ball over the fence and rounding the bases. We can imagine heaven, seeing Jesus’ face and hearing the thunderous waterfall of the praise of multitudes. We can imagine our children growing up to serve God. What an amazing gift to be able to hope and dream.

But we must be on guard, for our idol-factory hearts can so easily turn dreams into demands. Our hopes can easily begin to drive our lives. We can subtly shift from living for God’s glory to living for our idols.

We can unconsciously embrace certain ideas of the way the world is supposed to be. We can buy into the “American Dream”, and then when life doesn’t turn out the way we think it should, we can become disillusioned, depressed, and an easy target for temptation.

Our dream might be as simple as thinking when we turn 16, we’ll get our driver’s license. Or that we’ll graduate from college, have a great career, marry, have children and a home, go to little league games and take vacations at the beach. Or our expectation might be a long, healthy life.

But what if these things don’t happen? What if we never marry, or we lose our health or our job? What if we retire and our wife gets Alzheimer’s?

Actually, the Bible says we should not be surprised when we suffer. Peter tells us we will be suffer all kinds of trials and they will reveal that our faith is genuine and bring glory to Jesus when he returns:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 PE 1.6-7

We are usually surprised by pain and suffering, like they are strange things that shouldn’t happen. But Peter tells us we shouldn’t be surprised:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 PE 4.12

Suffering isn’t something strange for believers; it is normal life. And when we go through trials we shouldn’t be shocked. In fact, James reminds us that afflictions actually produce endurance and the character of Christ in our lives:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

The only way to grow in steadfastness, faithfulness and perseverance, is to go through situations that require these things. The only way to grow in patience is to go through things that require patience. We grow in love by living our lives with those who like ourselves, have many faults and weaknesses.

If we have expectations that life should be easy or always go our way, we will certainly be disappointed.

A member of our church for years dropped out when his son got a girl pregnant and then they got married. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he said. “I did everything I should and look what happened.” He had a certain EXPECTATION that if he did everything right, his children would never sin, grow up perfect. When his dream failed to materialize, he became angry at God.

Though Scripture contains many promises that give parents great hope their children will follow him, it doesn’t guarantee a painless pleasure cruise. The Bible has many promises that believers will experience deep joy, peace and contentment in him. And following Jesus as a disciple is the only path to true and lasting joy. Yet we will also go through dark valleys. In fact, hard times and suffering makes our joy in Christ even sweeter. It’s like an old movie, when a villain ties a woman to the railroad tracks and at the last minute, just before the train runs her over, the hero comes riding in on a white horse and sets her free. The momentary suffering makes the rescue even sweeter.


God doesn’t owe us our dreams. He doesn’t owe us long life, health, wealth, a marriage partner, or godly children. In his lavish kindness he gives us many of these blessings but he never owes them to us. God doesn’t owe us anything. And we owe everything to God.

Every blessing we enjoy is an undeserved gift of God’s grace. I expect God to be gracious to me because that is his nature and he promises to be gracious. But he doesn’t owe it to me. If God owed us grace it wouldn’t be grace.

Thank God for every blessing he gives you. Years ago, by God’s grace, I began the practice of writing 1 page a day (most days) in a moleskin journal of things to thank God for. It might be as simple as thanking him for a good night’s sleep or for saving me. It only takes about 10 minutes but it brings me great joy and sets the tone for me to be thankful during the day.

Remember, our dreams will never fulfill us even if we achieve them. Only Christ can satisfy. He alone must be our portion.

We shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer in this fallen world. Things break, people get sick. We sin, our children sin. Others let us down. But someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and we will see how momentary and light our sufferings here were, compared to the eternal joy they will produce in heaven.

God’s “dream” should be our dream. God’s “dream” – well, actually, God’s purpose and plan – is to glorify himself through a rescued people who are increasingly enjoying Jesus and becoming like him. We can live for this dream no matter what our circumstances are.

So whose dream are you living for?

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving 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 five children and five grandchildren.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.