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.

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.


What the Arrows of Affliction Prepare Us For

“Do you feel marked for sorrow? Are you the target of the arrows of affliction? Are you punished more than others? Do not sorrow. The arrows of affliction are sent by covenant love to prepare you for a special work that will yield great blessing from your Heavenly Father.” — C.H. Spurgeon

Our heavenly Father does a thousand things through the hard times he takes us through. He increasingly shapes us into the likeness of Christ. He creates humble dependence upon him. And in the fires and floods he draws near to comfort us. He’s the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Many times I’ve cried out to him for his comfort, and have found it true that he comforts us in all our affliction. Our sad times and hard times aren’t wasted. Our Father also prepares us to be vessels of comfort for others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 CO 1:3–7

When someone’s been through something it makes their sympathy that much more powerful. When someone who’s never experienced a hard time like the one I’m in offers comfort, I appreciate it, but if someone who’s been through a similar experience encourages me it means so much more.

When I was 26, my younger brother took his life. Numerous times over the years I’ve been able to comfort people who lost loved ones because I know how it feels.

My wife has suffered with depression and anxiety for over 20 years, and God has used her to help and strengthen many.

Parents who have challenges with their children can sympathize and encourage other parents with kids who aren’t doing well. If we never have any challenges with our kids, it’s easy to become proud and not understand what other parents are going through. We can think that if those other parents just did the right things, their kids would turn out good like ours. But when we’ve been through the pain and sadness of a rebellious child, we’re much more sympathetic to other parents and much less likely to judge them.

A police officer friend told me that before a policeman is allowed to use a taser he himself must first be tasered.

When we’ve seen God’s faithfulness to us in our afflictions, then we’ll be in a good position to promise others that God will be faithful to them in theirs.

And Paul says that when we suffer we’ll be able to comfort those in ANY affliction—even though we don’t experience their exact pain, we know what it is to suffer and we know what it is to find God’s comfort in that suffering.

Your pain isn’t meaningless. God has a great work ahead for you. “The arrows of affliction are sent by covenant love to prepare you for a special work that will yield great blessing from your Heavenly Father.”


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.


3 Things Jesus Tells Us about Worry

Jesus had a lot to say about worry.

He came into an unstable and unpredictable world. He lived in an agricultural society where one summer’s drought could wipe out crops for the winter. He hung out with fishermen, who might fish all night long and catch nothing to sell or bring home to family. And Jesus knew the human heart and the temptations presented by the cares of this life. So he gave his disciples some excellent instruction on worry in Matthew 6.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (25)

First, Jesus says God gave us our human life and our bodies without us even asking. Human life and our physical bodies are incredibly valuable. Our life is much more valuable than the food we put on the table; our body far more valuable than the shirt we put on. If God gave us life, which is so very valuable, will he not give us food, which is of far lesser value? If God gave us these bodies which are fearfully and wonderfully made, will he not give us clothes to cover them? And even further, if God has given us eternal life, will he not provide for our temporal life?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (26)

Jesus reminds us that God faithfully provides for dumb animals. Birds don’t sow or reap or store their food in barns—and they don’t fret about whether they’ll have enough for tomorrow or to get through the winter. Yet God feeds them. And Jesus tells us that humans, the crown of God’s creation, the only creatures made in God’s image, are of much more value than birds. If God provides for birds, then surely he’ll provide for those he made in his own image. Furthermore, will not God especially provide for those he bought with the blood of his Son?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (27)

Worry does absolutely no good. It won’t bring in money, food, or clothing. Worry only has negative results: it chokes the word of God and distracts us from God. It is unbelief, the opposite of faith. And it leads to more fear and anxiety. And the different scenarios we play out in our minds can’t prevent a single thing from happening. And besides that, most of the things we spend so much time fretting about won’t happen anyway.

To sum up:

  • Your life and body are far more valuable than any food you eat or clothing you wear. If God gave you life and fearfully created your body, he’ll provide food for that life and covering for that body.
  • God provides for birds who don’t know enough to plant, reap, and store up for winter. Humans created in God’s image are far more valuable than birds, so he will certainly provide for us.
  • Worry can’t do a thing. It won’t bring in a penny. It can’t put a crust of bread on the table or add 5 minutes to our lives. 

So don’t worry, trust your heavenly Father who cares for 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.


4 Ways Prayer Humbles Us

Most of us don’t like to humble ourselves. At least I don’t like to. And prayer is an act of humility. Prayer is an act of weakness. When we pray we admit to God that we desperately need help. That we’re weak and needy and not in control of all things. That we are not self-sufficient.

But God is attracted to this act of humility. So in 1 Peter 5:6–7 he tells us:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

We humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.” In other words prayer acknowledges that God is sovereign and controls all things. We bow before his sovereignty. We acknowledge that God rules but his mighty hand and we can’t control a single thing in and of ourselves.

Prayer waits for “the proper time” for God to lift us up. Waiting for God is humbling for us, and, again, we acknowledge that we can’t change anything and must wait for God to. We must patiently wait for the One who knows the end from the beginning, the infinitely wise one, who knows the absolute perfect time to come riding in to rescue us or supply our need. He knows the perfect time to answer our prayers. Our affliction won’t last one second longer than he determines.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on him. Why must we tell God our cares when he already knows them? Because asking is an act of humility, and since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), prayer puts us in the position to receive grace. God so longs to pour out his grace on us, he tells us the best way to receive it!

God tells us to cast or anxieties on him “because he cares for you.” When we pray it’s important to remind ourselves that God, the creator of the galaxies, the sustainer of heaven and earth, is deeply concerned for us—individually. I used to think God was so busy running the universe he didn’t have time for my “petty” needs. But I found out that God loves and cares deeply about his children individually. He knows us by name. He knows every hair on our heads. So pray because God cares about you and your anxieties and needs. If he feeds the sparrows of the field and the ravens that cry out, how much more will he hear the cries of his precious blood-bought children?

Don’t be proud. Don’t try to tough it out and get through life on your own. Humble under the hand of the Almighty who is tenderhearted, sympathetic and generous, and waiting to pour out grace. Cast your anxieties on him and he will lift you up at the proper time.


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 to do With a Crust of Bread

Why am I ungrateful at times? Discontentment reveals I am taking delight in something other than Jesus Christ. It reveals I’m looking to my circumstances for joy, not to the God of my salvation.

This is just the opposite of a woman Charles Spurgeon spoke of:

“I have heard of some good old woman in a cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water. Lifting up her hands, she said as a blessing, “What! All this, and Christ too?”

This woman realized that Jesus Christ was her all in all. He was her bread of life, her spring of living water. Jesus was her treasure and all her joy was in him. That’s why she could rejoice in a crust of bread and a little water. Her joy came from Jesus, not her circumstances.

When we look to the things of this world to provide our joy we will always be disappointed, for we have been designed to find our satisfaction in God alone:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.  Isaiah 55:1-2

God tells us not to spend our money for that which is not bread. In other words, don’t live for the things of this world. They are like plastic fruit, which might look tasty, but ultimately won’t satisfy. Pursue him who truly satisfies, Jesus Christ, the bread of life. If we have Jesus we don’t need anything else. If we have Jesus, then all other blessings are just extras – icing on the cake.

If the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned could rejoice over a crust of bread, how much more should we be thankful who not only have Christ but have a thousand other blessings in our lives. How about you? Can you say this about your life today – What! All this, and Christ too?

Can I suggest a simple practice that will bring joy into your life and help cultivate thankfulness? After a time in God’s word in the morning, I try to take 10 minutes and write things I am grateful for in a journal. I write things as simple as “Thank you for the sunshine and warm weather,” or “Thank you for my eyesight and hearing,” or “Thank you that I got to spend time with my granddaughter yesterday.” Or I might thank God for spiritual blessings, like, “Thank you for saving me and washing all my sins away,” or “Thank you for giving me eternal life” or “Thank you for your steadfast love and your mercies new every morning.” I usually write no more than a page. This habit sets the stage for my day, and reminds me to thank Jesus throughout the day for his unceasing mercies. Give it a try.

Rejoice in Jesus today. Look around and echo the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned: What! All this, and Christ too?


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.


Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world Philippians 2:14-15

Are you kidding? All things? All things without grumbling?

You don’t know my boss. You don’t know the ridiculous burdens he straps on our backs every day. All things? You don’t know what a slob my husband is and how I have to constantly pick up after him. You don’t have to work in a cubicle next to Mr. “I’m wearing cologne you can smell in 3 states.”

All things without grumbling? Did Paul have a two-year-old? I don’t think so. Paul wouldn’t survive one morning at my house with my kids. He’d be revising Philippians by 10:30 a.m. Do all things without grumbling? I don’t think Paul had to pay the kind of taxes I have to pay. He didn’t have to jump through the hoops and forms I have to jump through and fill out. 

The “all things” Paul tells us to do without grumbling aren’t the fun things. Nobody grumbles about having to do something fun or pleasant. It’s the miserable things. The hard tasks. The unreasonable assignments. The ridiculous chore that you’ll just have to do again tomorrow anyway. The unexpected tasks. The interruptions. The things you’d rather not do. Cleaning up after that person. Serving that ungrateful customer.

Paul – actually, God – tells us we’re to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing. We may think this is impossible given where we work, our boss, our coworkers. As I wrote this I thought about Christians suffering for their faith in North Korean labor camps. Even there God requires his servants to do all things without grumbling or disputing. Wow. What grace that would take. We have it easy, yet how quickly we slide into complaining.

Why does God give us this command? Isn’t it enough to be morally pure? Isn’t it enough not to curse and punch holes in the wall when required to do something unpleasant? What’s so bad about complaining or grumbling a little bit? Everybody does it.

That’s just it – everybody does it.

We complain about everything. We complain about the weather and the traffic and the government. We complain about being stuck working inside when the weather’s nice. We bellyache about our boss. About our co-workers. About the customers. We grumble about our teens and our toddlers. It’s our way of life.

That’s why God wants us to be different. He wants us to stand out against the dark backdrop of the world as his witnesses.

When we go about that ridiculous assignment cheerfully, we stand out as “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” The world is watching us. The world wants to assure itself that Christians aren’t any different from them. If we act just like them, then our faith hasn’t done anything for us. It hasn’t changed us. Why should they cry out to a Savior if it doesn’t matter? Why should they repent and turn from sin?

Most unbelievers don’t commit adultery. Most don’t steal. Most are decent, upright citizens. But everyone complains. Everybody grumbles. So Paul says that when we do all things without grumbling we stand out. It demonstrates the reality of our faith. There’s nothing to accuse us of – we’re blameless and innocent not only in God’s eyes but in the world’s eyes. We “shine as lights in the world” –  we’re blazing beacons in a dark world. We’re powerful witnesses for Jesus.

How do we get there? The best way is by practicing thankfulness. Thank God for anything and everything. Thank him for your unreasonable boss. Thank him for that unpleasant assignment. For your co-worker and that cologne he wears that makes you gag.

Oh, by the way, don’t thank him for your co-worker’s cologne in the next cubicle out loud.


13 Reasons You Are Precious to God

We who believe in Jesus can often be more aware of our sin and unworthiness than God’s love for and delight in us. We may believe that God accepts us in his son, but it’s hard to believe he takes pleasure in us and views us as precious to him. Yet 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that God cares for us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us God delights in his children and rejoices over them. Here are thirteen reasons you are precious to God:

Because he created you
Because he created you in his own image
Because he purchased you with the blood of his Son
Because he has washed away all your sins
Because he adopted you as his own child
Because he has joined you to Christ, made you one with his Son
Because you are part of his bride
Because he has put his own Spirit in you
Because he is transforming you more and more into the likeness of his Son
Because he is manifesting a fragrance of Christ through you to the world
Because he has imputed the very righteousness of Christ to you
Because he has plans and a purpose for you
Because you delight in his Son and desire to obey and glorify him

We can’t fathom God’s incredible love for us. In and of ourselves, there would be nothing to attract him, nothing for him to delight in. But he has made us new creations in Christ, created in the likeness of Jesus, in whom is all his delight.

Praise God today that he has made you precious and delightful to himself.


5 Things Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

Over the years I’ve counseled some individuals who’ve been horribly sinned against.

At times I did a really poor job of helping them navigate their pain and the process of working toward forgiveness. Forgiving others is clearly commanded by God, and deep down most believers want to, but it isn’t always easy, and lots of questions arise. Questions like, when I forgive must I feel like forgiving? If I forgive you does it mean end of discussion and I can’t talk about my hurt feelings? Does it mean everything’s automatically back to the way it was before you sinned against me? There are whole books written on the subject, but here are a few things that forgiveness doesn’t mean. I hope they are helpful.

The command to forgive doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that we must forgive quickly. When we are sinned against, it can be devastating, life-shattering, disillusioning, disorienting. Some sins are easy to forgive, but others can take a long time, much prayer, and much help from God. When someone’s reeling in pain, the first thing they need is our compassion and sympathy, not a quick encouragement to forgive. That will probably be part of the process of helping someone, but not the first step. I regret that at times in the past I was incredibly insensitive to some people’s pain and way too quick to suggest that they meet with those who’d sinned against them and grant forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we will feel like forgiving. Forgiveness is a decision of the will to absorb the pain or consequences caused by someone’s sin and not require them to repay. If you borrow my car and wreck it, someone’s got to pay to fix it, you or me. If I “forgive” you, I make a costly decision to absorb the cost of your failure, just as Jesus absorbed the cost of our sins and paid for them on the cross. So, it can be very painful to forgive someone. So, the command to forgive doesn’t mean we will “feel forgiving” when we make this decision. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience pain for a long time after we forgive.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must immediately trust someone. Forgiveness is instantaneous; trust is earned over time. If a drunkard comes to church and turns to Christ, God forgives him immediately, but he shouldn’t become a leader the next day. If someone asks our forgiveness for hurting us, we can forgive them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve changed. It’s not wrong to want to see a track record of change before trusting someone again, even if we’ve forgiven them.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean end of discussion. How many of us husbands have said to our wives, “I said I was sorry. So, why do we have to keep talking about it?” Even when we forgive, it can be really important for the one sinned against to share how the offender hurt or affected them. We need to realize the consequences of our sins. Often we need to consider all that led up to our sin—how we got there in the first place—in order to prevent future sin.

And finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences for sin. If I foolishly max out my credit card, then confess my sin, God will forgive me, but I’ll still have to pay off my debt, which might take years. When we forgive someone, we are saying, “Lord, please don’t condemn them for this sin. Please don’t give them what their sin deserves, just as you have not given me what my sins deserve.” But there may still be consequences—even life-long consequences—even when God forgives them of the guilt of their sin.

Sometimes it’s easy to forgive. At other times it feels like an impossible task. Very often, Jesus commands us to do the impossible, like love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (LK 6:27). We can’t do these impossible things on our own, but if God commands them, he will give us the grace to obey him if we ask for it.


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.


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.


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.


Bitter to Sweet

I love how the Lord provides for his people in unexpected ways.

Peter doesn’t know where the cash will come from to pay the temple tax, so Jesus tells him to go fishing. He pulls out a fish with a gold coin in its mouth. Another time the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowds away so they can go into the local towns and grab some food. But Jesus comes out of left field again and turns a few fish and rolls into a picnic for thousands.

Three days after the Israelites watch God split the Red Sea and engulf the Egyptian army, they come to a place called Marah (Ex 15:22). Three days and they have yet to find any water. Their lips are cracked and their throats parched. So when they see desert sun glinting on water their hopes soar. But when they run to taste it, it’s brackish. It’s obviously Moses’ fault. He should have done a Google search for the nearest pure watering hole before leaving Egypt. “Hey miracle man, what are we going to drink?” they gripe. They were obviously suffering short term memory loss. Hadn’t God miraculously saved them from Pharaoh just 3 days earlier? How often our first response to any trial is to grumble and plunge into instant unbelief.

Moses does the wisest thing to do when in trouble – he cries out to the Lord. Immediately, God shows Moses a log, or tree (ESV footnote). Moses takes the tree, tosses it into the filthy water, and it becomes not merely drinkable, but sweet!

Approximately 1500 years later God again unexpectedly provides for his people by a tree. When our lives are bitter and brackish with sin, when there is no earthly way to cleanse our putrid souls, God takes his sinless Son and nails him to a tree. A Roman cross, drenched in the blood of Jesus, makes our bitter lives sweet.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Ga. 3:13).

Obviously, it isn’t the Roman cross that sweetened our lives, but the One nailed to the tree, taking our bitter curse so he could give us his sweet forgiveness and peace. Praise God for his unsearchable wisdom and unexpected salvation! Praise Jesus for immersing himself in our polluted world and by his death giving us life and sweetness and light.