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.

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.


Ever Wish You Could Grow Wings and Just Fly Away?

Ever feel like David and just wish you could fly away?

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness PS 55:6–7

There have been times I’ve felt like that. I’ve wished I could sprout wings and fly far away. I’ve wished I could move to some distant town where nobody knew me, change my name, and start a new life. I’ve wished I could escape from problems and pain and sadness and dealing with people and hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

But there’s really no escaping sadness and pain in this life. There have been times I’ve felt like quitting. Felt like giving up my faith in Jesus. But every time I have, Jesus’ question to Peter and Peter’s answer comes ringing in my ears:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66–69

Where else would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. And I have come to know that he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Where else am I going to go? Back to the bars? Back to my life of sin? Back to the world—that broken empty well that promises happiness but never delivers? Am I going to go to some other religion? I can’t do that. I know the truth. Where else am I going to go? I know that Jesus is my only hope. As much pain as I might be in at the moment, I know that he is my only refuge.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going great. It’s easy to praise God and be thankful when all is going our way. But to trust and praise him in the midst of affliction brings him so much glory. When we suffer, especially in the midst of tragedy and intense pain, we can feel like doing what Job’s wife suggested: “Curse God and die.” Or we can respond like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I praise him.”

In my forty years as a Christian, I’ve seen believers respond to tragedy and tough times both ways. I’ve seen some become bitter, lose their faith, and stop following Jesus, saying, “How could a good God allow this? How could a loving God allow me to go through such pain? God didn’t answer my prayers. I believed in him but he didn’t come through.”

I’ve also seen believers go through horrific tragedies and yet despite unimaginable sadness, yet through their tears, still lift their voices to Jesus in praise and declare that Jesus is sovereign, wise, loving, and good. What glory they bring to God as they lift their hands in worship, even as tears stream down their cheeks. How they honor the Lord! I can’t wait to see the day when Jesus wipes every tear from their eyes and crowns them with glory. And if an angel standing by asks, “Why didn’t you give up on Jesus? Why did you keep praising and trusting him?” They’ll answer, “Where else would I have gone? Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God, my Lord, my King. He was my only hope.”

Where else are you going to go?

Jesus is the fountain of life. Every other “fountain” is an empty well. Every other road is a dead end. Pour out your grief to Jesus. Pour out your complaint to him. Ask him your questions. Ask him why you have to go through what you have to go through. Yet resolve to say, “Where else would I go, Jesus? You have the words of eternal life. You are my only hope.” Ask Jesus for comfort and peace. Ask him to bear your sadness. And ask him for grace to praise him in the midst of your affliction.

There’s nowhere else to go. So cling to the one whose everlasting arms of love are upholding you. Run to the one who truly knows your pain and longs to comfort you. Run to the one who is your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. Run to the one who has the words of eternal life.


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


5 Things Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


6 Critical Truths to Understand about Anger

The Bible has a lot to say about anger.

I don’t mean righteous anger, the kind of anger we can experience toward injustice or evil but sinful anger. Many times we may feel we are “righteous” in our anger because someone wronged us. Anger often involves our sense of justice. But it’s very easy to slide into sinful anger, hatred, and bitterness. Here are some Biblical truths and principles that God has used to help me make progress in conquering my own sinful anger.

Anger is not caused by other people or our circumstances. It comes out of our own hearts.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. MT 15:19

No one else can make you angry. Circumstances don’t cause your anger. Anger is your own sin. David Powlison says our hearts are like sponges. If I squeeze a sponge and black ink comes out, it might seem that the squeezing caused black ink to come out. Yet I might squeeze another sponge and have clear water come out. So, it was not the squeeze that caused the ink to come out, but ink came out because that was what was in the sponge. The squeeze merely revealed what was there in the first place. Other people and circumstances can “squeeze” our hearts and if anger comes out, it is because that’s what was in our heart.

Anger is caused by our own unfulfilled desires.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. JA 4:1–2

James says our own “passions”—cravings and desires—cause all our quarrels and fights. We desire and do not have; so, we murder, fight, and quarrel. In other words, we want something and we don’t get it; so, we get angry. Whenever you are angry ask yourself, “What is it that I want right now that I’m not getting?” Once I told my kids to go to bed and heard them wrestling and throwing things upstairs. When I went up I said, “You’re making me mad,” to which one replied, “But you have said no one else can make you mad.” I said, “You’re right. You are disobeying me, which tempts me (squeezes me), and it is my anger, my sin.” When I went downstairs I asked myself, “What do I want that I’m not getting?” My answer: I wanted to relax. I wanted kids who always perfectly and immediately obeyed. I wanted to watch TV, not oversee bedtime.

Anger won’t make anyone do the right thing. 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. JA 1:19–20

Many times we think anger will motivate others to do the “right” thing. Parents think anger will make their kids do the right thing, or act “righteously.” But anger won’t produce the righteousness of God. Anger might make kids outwardly obey, like little Pharisees, but it won’t change their hearts. Anger won’t produce inward righteousness in our spouse or coworkers. Anger does no good.

Anger toward another person is murder of the heart.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brotherc will be liable to judgment; whoever insultsd his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” MT 5:21–22

We tend to downplay the seriousness of anger. “I was just venting” or “letting off steam.” But Jesus said anger is murder of the heart and a violation of one of the 10 commandments. It can make us subject to the very hell of fire.

Anger makes things worse. 

A harsh word stirs up anger. PR 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife. PR 15:18

Not only does anger fail to produce righteousness, it makes things worse. It stirs up anger in others. It stirs up strife. It has the opposite effect to what we are desiring.

Anger opens the door for Satan

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. EPH 4:26–27

When we “let the sun go down on our anger” or fail to deal with it in a timely fashion, either by asking forgiveness, forgiving others, or working things out with them, it opens the door for Satan to tempt us to bitterness, revenge, slander, and a host of other sins. Cain’s anger at Abel led him to kill his brother. Anger is serious. We must deal with it quickly.

These truths have helped me numerous times when I’ve been tempted to anger.  I’m not saying I’ve conquered it and I never sin in anger. But by God’s grace, understanding these things has helped me make progress. I hope you, too, will find God’s Word and Spirit help you make progress in overcoming anger.


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 Ways to Beat Temptation

We all face temptations of many kinds. God wants us to beat them. We don’t have to sin, as powerful as temptations feel. Here are 8 ways to gain the victory.

1.  Pray before you are tempted

Jesus instructed his disciples to ask God, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” And as he told us to pray, “Give us THIS DAY” our daily bread,” it’s good to ask God to deliver us from temptation and evil THIS DAY.

2. Flee. A good run is better than a bad fall.

Stay as far away sin as you can. Don’t think you won’t fall. If you hired someone to transport your most valuable possessions, you wouldn’t tell them to see how close to the edge of a cliff they could drive. In Proverbs 7 a “young man lacking sense” wanders near the house of an woman at twilight, and just “happens” to run into her. She’s dressed sensually. She says her husband’s gone and describes her perfumed bed. Eventually he follows her like an ox going to slaughter. Eve got into trouble by engaging with Satan and looking at how delicious the fruit looked. Flee temptation. Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.

3. Quote Scripture

That’s how Jesus overcame the tempter. When you feel like grumbling remind yourself to “rejoice always.” When tempted to give a harsh reply think, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” When rankling against correction remind yourself, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Of course, to quote Scripture when tempted means we must know it first, which means we must regularly take it in.

4. Pray in the midst of temptation.

Draw near to the throne of grace for help in time of need. Your sympathetic high priest, who was tempted as you are yet without sin, will help you (Heb 4).

5. Get a brother or sister to pray with you.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

6. Ask someone to hold you accountable.

A friend once said to me, “Mark, when I get back from my business trip this week, can you ask me if I watched TV in the hotel room? When I’m alone on trips I can be tempted to watch bad stuff. Knowing you are going to ask me will help me fight temptation.”

7. Remember God’s faithfulness.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 CO 10:13). God will never let us be tempted beyond the strength he gives, and if we ask he’ll “provide the way of escape” to get us through it.

8. Remind yourself that sin has consequences.

Remember Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband’s death, God forgave him, but told him the sword would never depart from his house, that his own family members would do him great harm and the child he conceived with Bathsheba would die. (2 Sa 12:10–14).

So here’s a quick summary:

Pray before you are tempted
Flee
Quote Scripture
Pray in the midst of temptation
Get a brother or sister to pray with you
Ask someone to hold you accountable
Remember God’s faithfulness
Remind yourself that sin has consequences

Keep fighting the good fight!


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.


6 Questions to Ask Ourselves in Conflict

In this fallen world, conflict is inevitable. Husbands and wives, parents and children/teens/adult kids, roommates, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, believers and non-believers—we all sin against each other at times—at times intentionally but many times unintentionally. We have misunderstandings, fail to keep promises, do things that annoy or even hurt others. Sometimes we can overlook others’ sins. At other times we must address them. Sometimes we are the ones who are confronted.

Here are 6 questions I have found helpful to ask myself when I find myself in conflict:

1.  Am I trying to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry? (James 1:19)

Am I really trying to hear what the other person has to say? Really trying to see their viewpoint? Or am I defending myself or thinking of my next answer before they are finished speaking? Am I feeling angry? Is there anything that I really need to see here, even if we’re talking about something the other person did?

2.  Have I considered that I may have a log in my eye? (MT 7:3)

We all have blind spots—things about ourselves we can’t see. Could I be perceiving things wrongly? Am I being humble? None of us has God’s perfect wisdom and insight into every situation.

3.  Am I doing this for the glory of God? (1 CO 10:31)

Do I want this person to change so they will bring God glory? Or because I’m bugged, or to prove I’m right, or get my way?

4.  Am I trying to speak the truth in love? (EPH 4:15)

Do I genuinely love this person and care about their well-being? Do I want the best for them? Do I hope God blesses them?

5.  Am I trusting God to convince this person?

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth 2 Ti 2:24–25

Only God can change someone’s heart. We can’t—no matter how convincing or forceful we try to be. Have I asked God to help them see what he would have them see?

6.  Is there any middle ground or alternative solution we haven’t considered?

We can get locked into thinking that our way is the only way. In the heat of conflict it’s hard to consider other possible options. Sometimes if we take a step back or give it a little time, God can show us a solution we haven’t yet considered.

Remember: it’s not about winning or being right; it’s about God’s glory. Hope these are helpful.


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.


2 Mistakes to Avoid When Facing Temptation

There are two mistakes we can make when facing temptation. Sometimes we can fall off the horse on one side; at other times we can fall off the other side. God’s word keeps us in the saddle when dealing with temptation and its wiles. Paul tells us in 1 CO 10:12–13:

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Mistake #1: Underestimate the power of temptation.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (12)

Another way of putting this is overestimating your own strength to resist. In 1 CO 10 Paul catalogs a number of sins that Israel fell into, like desiring evil, idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, grumbling. He says God recorded Israel’s sins for our instruction. Then he gives the above warning—if you think you stand, be on your guard or you’ll fall. We can read about Israel’s sins and think, “I’d never do that. I’d never fall into idolatry. I would never sin sexually.” Paul says you’re about to fall off the horse. We can hear others’ sins and judge them thinking, “How could he do that? How could he start embezzling from the church? How could she commit adultery? How could he make such a mistake with his kids?” It’s easy to look at others sins and struggles and think we could never be tempted that way. Take heed lest you fall.

I once heard someone say we are all capable of any sin. Don’t ever think I would never do THAT. In Galatians 6:1 Paul tells us:

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.

We should deal gently with brothers and sisters ensnared in ANY sin, knowing that someday it could be us who are ensnared. We may think we could never fall into the sin our brother or sister is trapped in, but Paul tells us that we too can be tempted.

Sometimes we think we’re smarter than God. That we can walk into a tempting situation and not be affected. That we can watch that impure movie and it won’t bother us. Or hang out regularly with unbelievers and they won’t influence us, even though the Bible says “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ” (1 CO 15:33).

Don’t underestimate temptation. Don’t overestimate your ability to resist it.

Mistake #2: Overestimate the power of temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (13)

A friend of mine once heard a pastor say there will always be one or more areas of sin that a Christian can never conquer. That we just have to accept the fact that despite overcoming some sins, there will always be some we can’t. That there will always be certain temptations that are just too strong for us.

Wrong. First of all, your temptation is not unique. There is NO temptation that is not common to man, no temptation that multitudes haven’t conquered by God’s grace.

Secondly, though your temptation feels strong, God is stronger. He knows exactly what you can take and he controls even the strength of the temptation. He won’t let you be tempted beyond your ability. For with whatever temptation he allows he also provides “the way of escape”—the grace to keep from sinning. He doesn’t always remove the temptation, but gives us the grace to “endure it” without falling.

Believers do NOT have to sin because of our union with Christ. Romans 6:6 says because our old self was crucified with Christ, we’re no longer enslaved to sin. Verse 12 says we must not let sin reign in our bodies. It’s not easy, but we are not doomed to a life of slavery to sin. We must fight, pray, flee temptation, cry out to God for help, put sin to death. But we CAN overcome it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t underestimate temptation. But don’t overestimate it either. Stay on the horse. Someday Jesus will free us from our temptations and sins when he gives us glorified bodies in the new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells.


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 of the Best Pieces of Marital Advice I’ve Ever Heard

I’ve been doing a good bit of premarital counseling lately, and I’ve married quite a few folks over the years. There’s lots of great advice in the Bible and other books, but here are 4 pieces of advice that have really helped me throughout my marriage. I’m still trying to apply them, and I’d encourage you to as well, whether you’re getting married in 2 weeks or celebrating your 20th anniversary.

1). Try to be the biggest servant in the house.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. JN 15:12

And how did Jesus love us? By giving himself up for us (Eph 5:25). He came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). Jesus didn’t ask “What am I getting out of this?” but concerned himself with our welfare. Genuine love is not primarily a feeling, but a costly decision to sacrifice yourself for the good of another person. Have this mentality—I want to be the biggest servant in the house. Don’t evaluate how your spouse is serving you, but ask yourself how can I better serve my spouse?

2) Make God your source of satisfaction, not your spouse.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. PS 90:14

Remember—only God can satisfy our thirst. In Jeremiah 2:13 God said, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” It is evil to look to anything (or anyone) other than God to satisfy us. Anything other than God is a “broken cistern” that can’t hold water—can’t satisfy. Remember, no human being can satisfy another human being. Your spouse can’t fulfill you, make you happy, or meet all your needs. Put God first in your marriage by regularly taking in his word, praying, and fellowshipping with other believers. He will satisfy you with his love, which you will then be able to pour out to your spouse.

3) Keep short accounts

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Eph 4:26–27

When you have a conflict, or an offense with your spouse, try to work it out the same day. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Keep short accounts. Take care of it that day. Because when we let conflicts go unresolved it gives opportunity to the devil to tempt us to further anger, unforgiveness, and other sins. It’s tempting to want to hold on to anger, to “punish” your spouse by holding on to our anger, or giving him or her the cold shoulder. But we don’t have that luxury. In Matthew 5:23–24, Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Obviously, there are some sins that may require ongoing counseling or dialogue and healing, and trust can take time. But the idea is to deal with offenses as quickly as you can.

Kristi and I vowed on our wedding day that by God’s grace we would not let the sun go down on our anger, and in our first couple years, we had plenty of times we stayed up really late trying to work through things together. I can remember one night I said, “Kristi it’s one o’clock and I have to work tomorrow, but I’m committed to you and I might be wrong here; so I want you to know I love you and we’ll work on this more tomorrow.” And by God’s grace we did.

4) Above all, seek the glory of God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 CO 10:31)

Your marriage is not primarily for yourself, but for the glory of God. Marriage is to display the oneness and love of Christ and his church for each other. Our marriages are to be “snapshots” of how Jesus loves his bride and how the church loves Jesus. And as Jesus did all for his Father’s glory, so we should seek to glorify God through our marriages. So, if you have a conflict, don’t make your goal to win the argument, but ask yourself what will bring God the most glory. Will it glorify God most for me to be angry at my spouse or to seek to work through our conflict, ask forgiveness and forgive? Will it most glorify God for me to seek to fulfill my own desires or if I lay down my life to serve my spouse?

There you have it:

1) Try to be the biggest servant in the house.
2) Make God your source of satisfaction, not your spouse.
3) Keep short accounts.
4) Above all seek the glory of God.

Of course, God’s word has tons more great advice for marriage, but if you do these things, they’ll go a long way to help you glorify God together.


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.


Blessed to Not be Blessed

Winning the lottery is like throwing Miracle-Gro on your character defects
–Quote from a TV show on the lottery.

Sometimes we’re blessed to not be blessed.

What I mean by “not to be blessed” is not blessed in the way we think we should be. Or the way we want to be. God is so wise that sometimes he withholds blessings from us because he knows we couldn’t handle them. That we’d forget him. That we’d fall too much in love with this world. That we’d ruin ourselves. That it would throw Miracle-Gro on our character defects.

Psalm 84:11 says God doesn’t withhold blessing from his children:

No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

God withholds NO good thing from those he loves. So if God does withhold something from us, we can know that it must not be a good thing for us. We might think it would be a good thing, but we need to trust God’s wisdom. He knows what we’re made of and what would tempt or ruin us. He knows that winning American Idol wouldn’t be good for most of us. Lots of money wouldn’t be a good thing for most of us. Too much honor and adulation wouldn’t do most of us good either. Agur, author of part of Proverbs says:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8–9)

I’ve got to admit it’s hard to pray this prayer. I can easily pray, “Don’t give me poverty,” but I don’t add the second part, “or riches.” Because I think riches would be good. I want more than just needful food. I want to feast on steak and cake and cookies. Agur says it’s just as dangerous to be rich as it is to be poor. He says if we’re poor we can be tempted to steal, which profanes God’s name. But when we’re rich we can be tempted to deny God and say, “Who is the Lord?” If have everything, you can think you don’t need God.

Sometimes God uses sickness or poverty to “hem us in”—to keep us back from harmful things we’d pursue if we were healthy enough or rich enough.

If God isn’t pouring out on you the “good” you think you should have—whether it be wealth, a wife, a husband, a child, a job, a break, health, a home, whatever—it might be that if you had it, it might not be for your good. God is out for your best, which is to know him and be conformed to his likeness. So seek to be content to have Christ alone. If we have him we have the infinite riches of God. We have all the good God can give us. If God hasn’t given us something we’ve asked for, we can seek him for it, but then let us trust his wise providence. He’ll give it to us if it’s really good for us. He’ll withhold it if it’s not.

God will prune us. He’ll cut off branches that don’t bear fruit. But he won’t throw Miracle-Gro on the weeds in our hearts.

And that’s something to praise him for.


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 Rhythm of Thanks and Prayer

Recently someone told me they had decided to quit asking God for things more than once. “He’s heard me. He knows what I want. I don’t want to keep bugging him. So I’ll ask him once then just keep thanking him that he’s going to answer my prayer. But I’m not going to keep asking over and over for the same thing.”

God is definitely blessed by our thankfulness. And considering all he’s done for us in Christ, it’s only right that we overflow with thanks to him. In Colossians 2:7 Paul tells us to walk in Christ “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Psalm 100:4 tells us

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Someone once said that as we are “entering” God’s gates and courts, we should do so with thanks and praise, before we start asking him for things. Although I don’t believe Scripture requires us to thank God before making requests, in general I try to thank him before I lay my petitions before him. Usually my morning devotions consist of some Bible intake first, then thanking God for things—often writing them down in a journal, then bringing my requests. It is so good to remind myself that God has already blessed me in a myriad of ways. I believe thankfulness expresses humility and is a good reminder that all I have is a gift from him.

But God also wants us to ask him for things. Even if we ask him again and again. He told the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 to encourage us that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” He tells us in 1 Thess 5:17:

pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Psalms are filled with people crying out to God again and again, like in Psalm 88:

Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you. (9)

But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (13)

God tells us to practice the rhythm of thanksgiving and prayer. Psalm 50 tells us:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

God says give me a sacrifice of thanks. Perform your vows to me—promises made when in trouble that if God delivered them, they’d praise and thank him. Then, God says, call upon me in the day of trouble—bring your needs to me. Then I will deliver me, and you shall glorify me with even more thanks and praise.

This is the rhythm of thanks and petition: Offer thanks, call upon me, I answer, you thank me again.

Php 4:6–7 says the rhythm of prayer and thanks is the antidote to anxiety:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Pray. Make supplications with thanksgiving. Make your requests known to God. Keep doing that. Fight your temptation to worry that way. And as you practice the rhythm of thanks and prayer, God’s peace will guard your heart and mind.

If you haven’t thanked your heavenly Father for anything yet today, why not take a few minutes right now and offer some thanks to him?


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.