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.

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.

Remember:

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.


What Does it Mean to Fear God?

What does it mean to fear God? Consider the words of Psalm 147:10-11:

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Ps 147:10-11)

I have a friend whose describes his grandfather as a cantankerous old man who would sit in his chair all day and thwack him and his cousins with his cane anytime they walked in front of him. Is this what God is like?

Sitting in his chair, trying to keep people from having fun? A cosmic grouch?

God commands us to fear him and says that he takes pleasure in us when we fear him. Why? Does he enjoy us being afraid of him? I know I don’t want my children to be afraid of me. I want them to love me and enjoy being with me, not to be afraid of me.

A Humble Fear Of God

So, in what sense are we to fear God? The “fear” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.

To “fear him” means to stand in awe of him: “Let all the earth FEAR the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world STAND IN AWE OF HIM!” (Ps 33.8).

To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of his majesty, power, wisdom, justice and mercy, especially in Christ – in his life, death and resurrection – that is, to have an exalted view of God. To see God in all his glory and then respond to him appropriately. To humble ourselves before him. To adore him.

We tend to be in awe of worldly power, talent, intelligence, and beauty. But these things don’t impress God because “His delight is not in the strength of the horse (mighty armies, worldly power) nor his pleasure in the legs of a man (human strength).”

But God delights in those who fear him – those who stand in awe of him – and instead of trusting in their own human abilities or resources, “hope in his steadfast love.”

The Wicked Do Not Fear God

By way of contrast, the wicked person doesn’t fear God – he doesn’t stand in awe of God. The wicked has a low view of God:

Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.” (PS 36.1-4)

The wicked person has such a low view of God and such a lack of awe for God that he doesn’t think God can find out his sin or hate it. He doesn’t act wisely or do good because he doesn’t view God as holy and just and serious about punishing sin. He trusts in his own wits and strength. Obviously, the Lord doesn’t find any pleasure in the wicked.

The wicked refuses to fear God.

So let us fear God – stand in awe of him, take refuge in him, and hope in his steadfast love. For it brings the Lord pleasure when we trust in him for strength and help, not our own wits and resources.


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.


The Key to Enduring to the Finish Line

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (>HEB 12:1–2)

A couple of years ago I did the only athletic accomplishment in my life. I use the word “athletic” loosely. My son Stephen challenged me to run a half marathon, so I began training a couple months in advance. My only goal was to finish the race. I fully expected to come in last. Actually, I came in third from last—followed by a guy with a walker and a mom pushing her baby in a stroller. Just kidding. But the training and the race required endurance. And the last couple miles of the race were brutal for me. I got to the place where I would jog 10 steps then walk 10 steps, then repeat, gasping for air. The course passed through some woods, and finally I came to a clearing where I could see the finish line in the distance. So, I walked for a few minutes, then burst out of the woods and sprinted over the finish line. Stephen and a few others from the church who’d waited for me began to cheer as I pumped my fists in the air like Rocky. Since then, I’m happy to report I have jogged I think a total of two times.

The author of Hebrews compares our Christian life to a race that requires endurance. He uses the metaphor of a race, not a journey. A journey may be leisurely. We can take breaks, pull over to a rest stop, get a hotel room. But a race is all-out effort from start to finish. But how do we do this? By looking to Jesus, and imitating his example.

How did Jesus endure the horrific pain of the cross? By focusing on the JOY set before him—the joy he’d experience when he rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the throne of God. The joy he’d experience when the Father received him and gave him the Name above every names. The joy he’ll have when he celebrates the marriage supper of the lamb with the multitudes of those he redeemed from every tribe and tongue. Jesus didn’t focus on his pain or the injustice he experienced. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. We often tend to focus on our suffering. I’m not saying we should ignore our pain or put on a fake smile and say it doesn’t hurt. But sometimes we focus too much on our pain—why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this?

We need to keep resetting our gaze on the joy set before us. My dad used to tell long circuitous stories. You would mention something and it would trigger a memory for him. For example, once I said something about a candy bar. He launched into a story about traveling across the country and meeting this guy who had a truck and on and on and on, and I’d wonder, “Dad, where are you going with this?” until finally he came to the place where the guy discovered a whole truckload of Kit Kat Bars. I got distracted by the details, but Dad kept his eye on the goal.

So, keep setting your heart on the joy of seeing Jesus face to face and gazing on his splendor. The joy of Jesus wiping every tear from your eyes. The joy of Jesus rewarding you for every single act of obedience, every secret good deed you did, every glass of water you gave to a thirsty one, every dollar you ever gave to the poor, every hour you served in children’s ministry. Keep your eyes on the joy of hearing God say well done good and faithful servant. Keep your eyes on the joy of fellowshipping with Jesus at the marriage supper of the lamb. Remember the joy of having an imperishable body that will never get sick or suffer any pain. Keep your eyes on the joy of ruling and reigning with Jesus and the joy you’ll know when you’re reunited to loved ones who believed in Jesus.


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 Not Lose Heart in a Hostile World

The Christian life is a race that requires endurance. In my previous post on Hebrews 12:2: I said that as we look to and imitate Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross—we too will endure. And one particular kind of suffering we must endure is hostility from a world hostile to its Creator and Savior. Jesus said we should expect opposition:

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (MT 10:24–25).

We shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers malign us. We’re to be lights shining in a dark world. People sitting in a dark room don’t like it when someone turns on the lights. Especially if they are up to something no good. “Hey, turn off that light!” they shout. We shine the light of Christ, the light of the gospel, into the darkness. And often the world doesn’t like it.

In this country we don’t usually experience physical opposition. But we may encounter hostile attitudes. A friend of mine worked in a shop with a man who hated him simply because he was a Christian. Every day this man made negative comments and even threats to my friend.

Years ago a family came to our church, and we spent many hours counseling them and trying to help them, even giving them money to help with needs. They wound up leaving the church, and told other pastors in town that I was a Satanist. They harassed us in other ways as well, like making negative comments when they saw us. They lived near us, and one day as the wife was walking in front of our house my wife said hi to her. She responded by saying, “I curse you in Jesus’ name!” Another time she was walking in front of our house with her children, as I arrived home from work. When I said hi, she held her nose and said, “Children! What stinks! See this man? He is defiled. Stay away from him.” So much for a response to my friendly greeting.

Hebrews 12:3 gives us the key to enduring the hostility of others:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (HEB 12.3)

Jesus doesn’t ask us to endure anything he hasn’t been through. He experienced every temptation we have only to the max. Jesus suffered incredible hostility—before he was crucified the religious leaders hated him and continually plotted to kill him. People accused Jesus of having a demon and healing by the power of Satan. At his mock trial before Caiaphas they spit in his face and struck him, and said, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” Brutal Roman soldiers mocked and scourged him. Hostile crowds yelled, “Crucify him,” to Pontius Pilate.

Yet Jesus never reviled, threatened, or cursed in return. He took it silently. How did he do it? Peter tells us:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 PE 2:21–23

When people mocked and insulted Jesus he didn’t retaliate but entrusted himself to his Father—him who judges justly. When he hung on the cross and people spit on him saying, “Hey, save yourself and come down from the cross if you’re the Christ,” he didn’t yell back, “Oh yeah, you just wait till I rise from the dead—you are going to wish you’d never done this to me.” No, he entrusted himself to his heavenly Father. And he even asked his Father to forgive those who had crucified him.

That’s how we are to endure hostility. We are to keep entrusting ourselves to God who judges justly and not take revenge or revile back. To entrust ourselves to God means we keep trusting him to take care of us. That God the all-knowing, all-wise judge will deal with our enemies. That the One who is perfectly just and will make everything right in the end. To entrust ourselves to God means we put ourselves in his hands and trust him to defend us and deal with those who attack us.

My friend that I mentioned whose co-worker harassed him didn’t curse him or threaten him, but prayed for and forgave him. God gave my wife and I grace to not retaliate against the family that called me a Satanist. The only way I could get through their harassment was to keep looking to Jesus, entrusting myself to my heavenly Father. I didn’t always do it well. I was seriously tempted to anger at times and wanted to revile back, but God helped me not to.

Are you experiencing hostility from someone? Consider Jesus and the unimaginable hostility he endured. Don’t strike back. Don’t take things into your own hands. Don’t repay cursing with cursing. Do what Jesus did and entrust yourself to him who judges justly. That’s how he will keep you from growing weary or fainthearted.


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


How to be Happy When Someone Leaves Your Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


How to Make a Real Impact in the Lives of Others

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s use our gifts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s use our gifts IMMEDIATELY

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

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

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

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


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


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.