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 Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow in January produces corn in August

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

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


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


12 Promises Every Parent Should Ask God to Fulfill

God doesn’t guarantee he will automatically save our children, but gives us many promises to inspire us to pray and believe him to answer.

I review these promises from God occasionally and use them as springboards for prayer for my descendants. For example:

Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

I might pray, “Lord Jesus, you have promised your people that all our children shall be taught by the Lord. Please do this! Please reveal yourself to all my children and grandchildren and descendants and bring each one into peace with you through your blood.” Consider using these promises as you pray for your children:

Isaiah 59:21 “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.”

Psalms 102:28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.

Psalms 112:1-2 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! 2 His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed

Isaiah 44:3-5 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.

Isaiah 61:8-9 …I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed.

Isaiah 65:23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.

Proverbs 20:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him.

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.

Jeremiah 32:39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.

Acts 16:31-33 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Don’t quit praying for your children until the day you go home to be with the Lord. Even if you don’t see them saved in your lifetime, God can still save them. Although he doesn’t guarantee they will be saved, he promises to hear our prayers, that the prayer of the upright is powerful and effective, and he gives us good reasons to believe he desires to save whole families.


5 Benefits of Having a Challenging Teen

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

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

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

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

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

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

Having a challenging teen helps us to grow in love

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

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

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


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


3 Things Jesus Tells Us about Worry

Jesus had a lot to say about worry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up:

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

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


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


Share Your Troubles with Others. But Don’t Forget to Do This…

It’s good to share your troubles with others. But don’t forget to connect your pain to Jesus.  Here’s what I mean:

I would not want anyone in our church to be fearful to talk about sad or painful things they are going through. Sometimes we hesitate to share our burdens because others can be quick to judge or give advice or tell us we should have more faith. Or we don’t talk about our suffering because we don’t want to burden others or sound like we’re complaining. So when someone sincerely inquires, we should tell them honestly what we’re going through.

Usually when people say, “Hi, how are you?” they’re not usually looking for us to give them an in-depth report. It’s just a greeting and all they are looking for is for us to reply, “Fine, how are you doing?” But when someone seriously inquires we should tell them. Be honest. If you’re in a lot of pain tell them. If you’re being tempted to fear tell them. Hopefully they will have compassion and genuinely want to bear your burden with you.

But when you talk about your struggles, from time to time connect them to Jesus. In other words bring Jesus into the picture. Try to express some kind of faith or trust in Jesus.

For example you might say, “Thanks for asking. I’ve really been hurting ever since the accident. The pain in my neck has been excruciating and nothing seems to help. But I just keep praying, and I believe Jesus is for me and working all this for my good.”

Or, “Our son is really doing poorly. He doesn’t appear to be saved. He’s gotten into drugs, and I am really sad and I’m really concerned about him. But I know Jesus loves him even more than I do, and I’m just continuing to pray that the Lord will save him.”

I’m not advocating putting on a fake smile and giving a robotic Pollyanna I feel good-I feel great-I feel wonderful kind of happy Christian response that doesn’t admit to suffering. Neither am I saying we should mention the Lord every single time someone asks us how we’re doing. But I think it’s good to make connections to Jesus and express our faith. Especially so in our private times with the Lord.

Years ago I spent a lot of time counseling an individual who had no problem pouring out complaints and talking about how miserable their life was. And I was sympathetic to this person’s afflictions as were many others. The only problem was this individual never seemed to connect their pain or struggles to Jesus. They never mentioned anything about believing that God is good or faithful or that he would use their suffering for his glory. They just constantly complained about their misery and how hard their life was.

Don’t fall off the horse on either side. Don’t try to bear your pain all alone. Share your pain. Especially when someone sincerely inquires. But connect your pain to Jesus from time to time. Join your faith in Jesus to your honest report of your suffering. Express both your pain and your trust 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.


When a Fellow Christian is Trapped in Sin

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

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

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

How should we react?

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

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

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

Our goal: restore them to Christ

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

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

Gentleness, not exasperation

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

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

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

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


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


The Secret to Loving Jesus

The more we realize how much Jesus has forgiven us, the more we will love him.

In Luke 7 a woman of ill repute shows up at a meal Jesus is attending in a Pharisee’s home. She breaks open a flask of expensive ointment, then, weeping over Jesus’ feet, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with the oil. The Pharisee, named Simon, most likely disgusted that Jesus would let this unclean woman touch him, thinks if Jesus were a prophet he’d know the kind of woman this is and have nothing to do with her. Jesus tells him:

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (41–43)

Then after mentioning Simon’s lack of courtesies—he didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, welcome him with a kiss, or anoint his head with oil—he pointed out how the woman washed his feet with her tears, kissed his feet and anointed them with oil. Then he delivers the punch line:

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (47)

Before he saved me, Jesus let me sink into a self-made miry pit of sin, selfishness, and misery. I couldn’t get out and couldn’t stop sinning. God is sovereign. He could have kept me from sinning. But he allows us to plunge deeply into sin. One of the reasons is so that when he does rescue us, we’re far more amazed and grateful than if we’d never sinned.

The same thing happens even after God saves us. He could keep us from ever sinning again. He could deliver us instantaneously from all pride and anger and self-centeredness. But he allows us to fall and struggle at times so we’ll have a fresh appreciation of his grace, forgiveness and love. And as a result we will love him all the more.*

John Newton said:

“…when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility—they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of God in Christ; Jesus becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them!”

Have you blown it repeatedly? Messed up so many times you can’t recall? If you haven’t turned to Jesus yet, do so today! He paid for every one of your sins on the cross and freely forgives all who call upon him in faith to save them. He’ll cleanse you of your every sin, and in turn you’ll love him much.

Maybe you’ve believed for years, yet you’re discouraged in your struggle with sin. Remember, Jesus paid for all your sins long before he saved you. Ask him for forgiveness and he’ll forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Not because you deserve it, but because he loves you. And you too will love much because you’ve been forgiven much.

I don’t advocate continual, morose, Eeyore-like dwelling upon our sins. But I DO advocate contemplating how much Jesus has forgiven us, because the more we realize the height and width and breadth and depth of Jesus’ forgiveness, the more we will love him.

The secret to loving God much: contemplate the immeasurable debt Jesus paid for you and how vast is his mercy and grace to you.

…..

*The reality of God in his sovereignty allowing us to fail to reveal the depth of our sin, our weakness and need and the greatness of Christ’s mercy and love is explained well by Barbara Duguid in her book Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness


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


4 Ways Prayer Humbles Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


8 Questions to Help Guard Your Heart

When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, he changes our hearts and minds. He gives us the mind of Christ (Php 2:5). And we are to cooperate with him by actively transforming our minds and thinking by the word of God:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… RO 12:2

As we take in God’s word, the Spirit of God renews our minds, causing us to think Christ’s thoughts, to see life as Christ sees it, and to know God more and more. Yet it’s important that we guard our hearts diligently:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. PR 4.23

In other words, we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are eight questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts:

What am I believing about God?

Do I believe what his Word says about him? Do I believe he is faithful? Do I believe he is sovereign, good and loving? Am I trusting his promises? Or do I believe he has forsaken me or doesn’t care about me?

Am I constantly giving thanks?

Gratefulness produces joy. Noting and recalling our blessings turns us to God. Do I regularly thank Jesus for saving me? Do I have “the joy of my salvation”? Am I thanking God in everything? If we believe that God works all things for good, then we can thank him in any and every situation. If grumbling and complaining is coming out of our hearts, something is amiss with our view of God.

Am I giving into any condemnation?

Am I consistently living in the good of the gospel? Am I forgetting the good news that Jesus paid for all my sins, failures, mistakes, omissions? Do I fall into self-pity at my failures or weaknesses? Am I constantly dwelling on my regrets? Am I living in the good of the gospel? Am I pressing ahead in faith?

Am I casting my cares on God?

Do I believe God answers prayer? Do I believe he has the power to help me and change any situation? Am I asking for his help or am I trying to solve all my problems on my own? A lack of prayer reveals a lack of humility and a lack of faith.

How am I interpreting my life?

Am I interpreting it from a Biblical framework? Is God in the equation? Or am I thinking in wordly ways? Again, do I believe God is in control and working for my good? Or do I believe that life is out of control or that God is distant and uninterested?

Am I being attracted to any sin or the world?

Am I thinking like the world thinks? Am I craving the things of the world—success, possessions, personal fulfillment? Am I flirting with any sin? Am I thinking thoughts like, “A little bit won’t hurt,” or, “I’ll just do this one time then I’ll quit,” or, “No one will know if I do this”? Am I envious of what others have? Am I jealous of others’ success or gifts or possessions? Am I depressed about not having certain things?

Do I fear God?

Do I believe he knows my every thought word and deed? Do I believe I’ll have to answer for everything I do in life? Do I want to do everything for the glory of God? Do I believe God sees everything I do and nothing is hidden from his eyes?

Am I humble?

Am I doing anything from selfish ambition? When I correct someone do I look for the log in my own eye first? Do I listen to others? Am I easy to correct? Am I able to admit I’m wrong? Do I think I’m something great? Do I remember that all I have is a gift from God and anything good I’ve accomplished has really been the Lord?

I’m sure there are many other good questions we can ask ourselves to guard our hearts with all vigilance. May the constant outflow from our hearts be thankfulness, praise, faith, encouragement to others, mercy and kindness.


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.


Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just it – everybody does it.

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

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

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

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

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

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


12 Benefits of Afflictions

God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason.

He has wonderful purposes for all he does in us. God is the great artist who produces the ultimate masterpieces – sons and daughters in the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. So he makes every stroke of the Master’s brush, every tap of the Sculptor’s chisel count.

So in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times. If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.

Afflictions deliver us from pride. Paul said God gave him his grievous thorn “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations2 Corinthians 12:7

Afflictions make us sympathetic, merciful and slower to judge. If you’ve suffered the fury of depression, you won’t assume that others who are depressed are in sin. If you’ve been grieved by a rebellious teen, you’ll be quick to sympathize with other struggling parents.

Afflictions remind us of the brevity of this life and make us long for heaven where our true treasure is. “When things go on much to our wish, our hearts are too prone to say, ‘It is good to be here!’” John Newton.

Afflictions stir us to pray and keep us dependent on God. Too many days of continuous sunshine and we can forget how much we need the Lord. But as thunderstorms make us run for shelter, so afflictions make us to run to our Refuge and Strength, and cry out like David, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalms 25:16

Afflictions are opportunities for Christ to display his power in us. As long as we can handle things in our own strength, we won’t see God’s power. It’s when the burden gets too massive for us to bear that Christ comes along and says, “Hey, let me take that from you” and reveals his universe-sustaining strength. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Afflictions drive us to God’s word. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalms 119:71. A life preserver doesn’t mean much to someone lounging in a deck chair reading a novel. But when the ship is sinking and one is adrift in the ocean that life preserver is everything. When we are sinking in affliction, we grab onto God’s promises and they uphold us.

Afflictions yield supernatural comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Afflictions prove the reality of God’s grace in our lives. How does someone endure years of sickness yet continue to be joyful? How does a wife lose her husband to cancer yet join the saints the following Sunday and lift her hands in worship? What makes a husband care for his Alzheimer-racked wife and continue to love God? God’s amazing grace! Endurance through afflictions is evidence we haven’t believed some empty philosophy or fable.

Afflictions make us thankful when God delivers us from them. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” Psalms 50:15.

Afflictions produce unique fruit that doesn’t grow in other soil. Fruit like faith, patience, perseverance, gentleness, long-suffering? By going through trials that require them.

Afflictions manifest God’s faithfulness and mighty sustaining power. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:35-39.

Finally, afflictions make us like Christ. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us to his Son so that we can enjoy him forever. So ultimately, afflictions are for our eternal joy and gladness in Jesus


What the Arrows of Affliction Prepare Us For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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