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.

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.


The Habit That Changed My Life

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5:18

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ EPH 5.20

Early in my Christian life my mother heard a teaching on giving thanks for everything. I was 23, out of work, and had recently moved back home. I was depressed and not very hopeful about my life.

I was incredulous. “Thank God for everything?” I asked. “Do you mean that I’m supposed to thank God if I have a flat tire?”

“Well, yes, because you don’t know but there might be an accident up the road that God prevented you from being in by letting you get that flat tire.”

I was skeptical, but decided to try to put my mom’s advice into practice and thank God for everything. It was the mid-summer and I was putting a patio in for my parents. As I lugged the large stones in the blazing sun I began to thank God. “Lord, thank you for how hot it is. Thank you for these stones. Thank you that I don’t have a job. Thank you that I had to move back home with my parents. Thank you for how miserable I am.”

I didn’t feel thankful. But I gave thanks out of sheer obedience to God’s word. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a habit that would change my life.

I remember another day many years later. I was playing basketball in the back yard with my son and twisted my ankle. As I sat on the asphalt basketball court it looked like someone had inserted a large sausage under the skin. My son stood there with eyes wide open. The thought went through my head—what kind of example would I show my son in my pain? So, I began to thank Jesus in the midst of my screaming pain. Later, a podiatrist told me it would’ve been better if I had broken my ankle, the sprain was so bad. During the following weeks I had many opportunities to practice thankfulness. One day when I was sliding into self-pity I caught myself, grabbed myself by the collar and began to thank the Lord. “Jesus, thank you that I sprained my ankle. Thank you that it was only one ankle I sprained and not both of them. Thank you that I did not have to go to Vietnam where many guys had their legs blown off by mines….”

By God’s grace I have sought to practice thankfulness in all kinds of circumstances. Not that I have done it perfectly, but God has helped me to give him thanks not only in times of blessing but even through tears and deep sadness.

I have learned that to give thanks in all circumstances doesn’t mean we thank him for the evil in those circumstances. But we can always thank him that despite the evil and pain we suffer, he is in control and he is loving and faithful and causes all things to work together for our good.

God doesn’t expect us to put on a smiley face and act like pain isn’t there. But he tells us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. When we do this, even through tears or pain we glorify him and he will bless us and reward us for it.

If you are thinking of resolutions or new habits you’d like to begin this coming year, I would suggest you put giving thanks at the top of your list if you aren’t doing it already. Thanking God in everything has made a huge difference in my life and I believe it will in yours as well.


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 to Live in a World That’s Crumbling

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

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

Live for the unshakeable kingdom

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

Be thankful

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

Ask God for grace

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

Have a healthy fear

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Unbelievable, Incomprehensible, Mind-Blowing Power Available to Us

If you believe in Jesus Christ you have more power available than you can possibly imagine.  It is a power so great that it takes a revelation from God to even begin to comprehend it:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (EPH 1:16–21).

Paul prays that the saints would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” If we don’t know about it, we won’t access it, won’t benefit from it, won’t ask for it. My first year as a Christian I didn’t know the truth in Romans 6 that believers are no longer under the dominion of sin. I didn’t realize that I had the power of the Holy Spirit to put my evil desires to death. My ignorance of the power available to me resulted in much needless misery. Paul wants his readers to know about this awesome power they can access, so he prays that God would enlighten their hearts to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward them.

Just how great is this power? It is the very power of God. It is the power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in heavenly places. It is a power greater than the mightiest angels have, a power “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” It is a power greater than all the power of Satan and demons. It is a power greater than all the power of the nations combined. And it is a power greater than all the power of sin and temptation.

It is the power that gave us life and raised us from the dead. It is the power that transforms us into the likeness of Christ. It is the power to become like Christ, to serve others, to persevere in trials, to endure persecution, and to lay down your life to love others. It’s the power to fight temptation and to kill sin. It’s the power to obey God’s commands, to share the gospel, and the power to pray.

Who is this power for? Every believer, young and old. The newest Christian has as much access to this power as someone who has believed for 60 years.

And how do we get this power? By praying for it, as Paul did for the Ephesians. The Almighty one, the Warrior of Heaven is waiting to come to our aid with his infinite power, as he tells us in these verses:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (PS 46:1)

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (IS 40:29)

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (IS 40:31)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (PHP 4:13)

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (EPH 3:16)

being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience (CO 1.11)

The Christian life is hard. Jesus calls us to hard things, like dying to ourselves and loving the unlovable. He calls us to fight the good fight against spiritual powers, and our own sinful desires and weaknesses. But we have infinite resources in Christ, including his mighty, incomparable power.

We can receive the very strength of God himself just by asking! Why would we not tap into this infinite power? No matter what you are facing today, Jesus has more than enough strength for you. Just ask him for it!


Someday It Will be Worth It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someday it will be worth it. Peter tells us:

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

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

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


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