Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge

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

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

The Surprising Blessings that Overtake the Generous

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

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

Here are a few reasons to give generously:

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

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

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

Light will break in your darkness

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

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

God will bless your children.

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

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

God will protect, deliver, and restore you

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

God will be honored

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

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

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

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

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

Others will water you

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

You will reap in the same way you give.

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

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

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

God will enrich you to be increasingly generous.

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

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


Have I Lost My Salvation Because I Have Doubts?

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

Let’s see what Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

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

1) Write out your prayers

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

2) Pray specific Bible verses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Make lists

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

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

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

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

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

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

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

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


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

How to Make a Real Impact in the Lives of Others

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s use our gifts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s use our gifts IMMEDIATELY

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

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

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

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


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


4 Reasons to Pursue Humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The One Phrase that Can Diffuse Any Argument

Want to know how to diffuse an argument? Want to know how to cool the flames of a heated debate?

The other night my wife and I were talking with my daughter and son-in-law about the early years of our marriage. Kristi and I had plenty of challenges our first year or two as we were adjusting to our new life together. We were committed to making our marriage glorify the Lord, but when two human beings—even two believers in Jesus—come together, their desires and sins often come into conflict.

Kristi told my daughter, “I would get very heated at times and raise my voice. I had done that in my family since I was a child. I had to be right. And I would keep arguing and arguing to prove my point. But in our arguments your dad would often state his side, then he’d add, ‘But I could be wrong.’ That would diffuse the argument. And eventually I realized that coming out of an argument as ‘right’ was not as necessary as being humble. Eventually I began to realize that I could be wrong about things, even if I felt 99% sure I was right. So, I began to force myself to say ‘I could be wrong’ when arguing about things. At first it felt totally unnatural to say it, but as I practiced saying it, it became more natural. And I began to realize how good it was for our marriage not to always expect Mark to always cave in to me, but it was important for us both to leave the possibility open that the other person could be right and I could be totally wrong.”

I’m glad Kristi remembers it this way, but I know that I didn’t always respond well in our conflicts. I thought I was right. I pushed for my position. I was proud. But if I happened to respond in any humble way in our conflicts part of it may have been that early in my Christian life I was taught that we all have blind spots—things about ourselves that we can’t see. We can think we’re right and yet not see something that is glaringly obvious to others. And I also remember being taught this Scripture from Proverbs:

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (PR 26.12).

A biblical “fool” is a wicked person, a God-hater, not just a silly person. And there is more hope for a biblical fool than a man who is wise in his own eyes. A man who thinks he is right all the time. A man who thinks he can’t be wrong.

Only God is omniscient. Only God is never wrong. Only God is infinitely and perfectly wise. God is the only one who perfectly knows the motives of our hearts. He knows why we do things, what is best to do, and he understands every aspect of every situation. But we, who are fallen creatures, even when made anew in Christ, are limited and fallible. All of us are wrong at times. Even when we’re sure we are right. We may have right information but wrong motivation. We may be intelligent, but the most intelligent of men don’t know everything.

This doesn’t mean we can’t discuss things, make our points, state our observations, etc. But we must always guard against pride. It’s always lurking there, ready to raise its ugly head. At least in my heart it is. We must always guard against being wise in our own eyes. We should always try to be teachable, even when being addressed by someone much younger or less experienced.

So keep this little phrase in your back pocket: “I could be wrong.” Believe it. Even when you think you are right. Remember we all have blind spots and are not the ultimate judge of all things. Beware being wise in your own eyes. Lord Jesus, help us to be humble.


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 Best Way To Spend Your Life

Complete 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to…

  1. Have your best life now
  2. Become the person you were intended to be
  3. Be fulfilled
  4. Develop yourself to your full potential
  5. Make a name for yourself
  6. Find the love of your life
  7. Make a difference in the world
  8. Get your act together
  9. Do great things
  10. Serve the living and true God

If you chose number 10 you were correct.

Let me put the whole verse together:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… 1 Thessalonians 1:9

This is what the Christian life is all about – serving the living and true God. It doesn’t matter how we serve him. We may serve him in large ways or small ways. That’s up to him. But the point is is we are to live to serve God. Whether our lives improve or not. Whether we find success in this world or not. It’s not about success. It’s not about personal fulfillment. It’s about serving the living and true God.

In fact at times our lives will not “improve.” They will get harder. We will be persecuted. We’ll suffer trials of various kinds. But that doesn’t matter as long as we are serving the living and true God.

At times it won’t seem worth it in this life (though it always is). But it will definitely be worth it in the next life.

Years ago I heard someone preach a message on this passage:

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36

The preacher said this is what it’s all about – to serve God’s purpose in our generation. Not our own purposes, not our own selfish ambitions, but God’s purpose. This really affected me as a young believer and I wanted to do this. And I wrote a song about it– the music is kind of corny now but the words are still true:

I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
I want to live my life for something that will last forever
Oh I delight, I delight to do your will.

Do you want to live your life for something that last forever? If we live for anything else we are living for things that will pass away.

David served the purpose of God in his own generation and fell asleep. Wouldn’t it be great if people said that about you at your funeral? “She served the purpose of God in her generation.” Wouldn’t that be great to have on your tombstone? “He served the purpose of God in his generation.”

Lord Jesus, help us live to serve the living and true God. Let us serve your purpose in our generation.


Forgive Each Other – Sounds Simple, Right? Wrong.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

God commands his children to forgive each another.  For this reason: He has forgiven our incalculable debt against him, so we should forgive those who sin against us. 

Seems straight ahead and simple, right? Maybe not quite so straight ahead and simple as it seems on the surface.

We live in a fallen world, and both Christians and non-Christians sin against each other. And very often in devastating ways. Sadly, even Christians fall into horrible sin at times and it can be life shattering when you are sinned against. Sin causes anguish, sadness, and misery. So when someone sins against you, I would not say you just quickly and flippantly say, Oh well, I forgive you, that’s ok. Everything back to normal.

If someone hurts or betrays us and then asks forgiveness, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about that sin and how it hurt us. It doesn’t mean we just brush it under the carpet and move on. Sin is devastating. It can take time to get to the place where we can forgive and restore the relationship.

There have been times in the past I have been too quick to encourage people to get together with someone who has sinned against them and grant forgiveness.

And forgiveness doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences. Certain sins might even involve calling the police, even though someone repents. If I go out and irresponsibly charge $20,000 on my credit card, then ask my wife’s forgiveness, even though she forgives me, I will have to pay that money back. I’ll have consequences for a long time. 

And even when we forgive someone, that doesn’t mean we must immediately trust them. Sin shatters trust. It can take a long time to earn trust again once it has been shattered.

Forgiving others takes the power of God. We can’t do it in our own strength. But Jesus can help us. If you are struggling with unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone, cry out to God to help you. Seek counsel, talk to a trusted mature Christian or your pastor. If you know someone was sinned against in a significant way, and worked through it and came to a place of forgiveness, get together with them and seek their insights.

Forgiveness and reconciliation should be a goal believers work toward for the glory of God. Colossians 3:13 says “you also MUST forgive.” Unforgiveness and bitterness aren’t options. We’re working out our lives together. I need you to forgive me when I sin against you, and I must forgive you as well because God has forgiven us in Christ. 


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.


The Best Antidote For Christmas Stress

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)

Martha was doing a good thing—she was serving Jesus. She wanted him and her guests to enjoy themselves. She wanted to bless them. She wanted them to enjoy their challah and gefilte fish. There were bagels and lox and matzah ball soup and dishes of knish to bring the guests.

She was distracted by “much serving.” Martha was serving her guts out. But she was distracted. She was unable to focus or concentrate on Jesus’ words. She was probably catching some, but unable to think about what he was saying or reflect on it. “I heard him saying something about a lost sheep,” she said. “But who has time for stories? I got blintzes in the frying pan.”

Martha may have been joyful initially, but now she’s getting annoyed at her sister. Now she is serving, but not with gladness.

Jesus said Martha’s problem was deeper than mere distraction about getting the meal on the table—she was “anxious and troubled about many things.” The cares of this life regularly choked out Mary’s joy and God’s word in her life.

In Martha’s eyes, Mary was lazy or unproductive or selfish. She wasn’t getting anything done. Jesus said “one thing is necessary.” It is “the good portion.” What is that? Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” She was focused on Jesus and his word. She was undistracted in her devotion to Jesus. She was simply putting Jesus first. Her relationship with Jesus, getting to know him, and meditating on his teaching was her priority.

We too can be distracted, anxious, and troubled about many things. I talked to a friend recently whose stress on the job feels like a tsunami breaking over him. A friend’s husband has early onset dementia. I know a number of families who live paycheck to paycheck. Most of us know someone who struggles with the fury of depression or who has a sick child.

These are major temptations to anxiety and fear. Serious distractions. Now add to all this the additional distractions and stressers of the Christmas season—presents to buy and wrap, getting a tree, decorating, family gatherings, travel, then there’s the gift wrap outreach and the food collection and the Christmas Eve outreach with the live camels. Ok, most of us don’t have to worry about live camels, but you get what I mean. And if Aunt Mary and Aunt Jean come to our Christmas meal, it’s going to be tense, and who knows if Joe is even going to come… you get the idea.

Only one thing is necessary.

To sit at Jesus’ feet. To listen to his word. To rest in him.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

This may be hard to do, but we must seek to stay our minds on Jesus and trust in him. Don’t neglect to take time in God’s word and to pray this Christmas season. Put that first. Make that top priority. A little time every day in God’s word. Carve out a time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his voice. There’s no better antidote for Christmas stress.


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 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.