Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge

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

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

What to do With a Crust of Bread

Why am I ungrateful at times? Discontentment reveals I am taking delight in something other than Jesus Christ. It reveals I’m looking to my circumstances for joy, not to the God of my salvation.

This is just the opposite of a woman Charles Spurgeon spoke of:

“I have heard of some good old woman in a cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water. Lifting up her hands, she said as a blessing, “What! All this, and Christ too?”

This woman realized that Jesus Christ was her all in all. He was her bread of life, her spring of living water. Jesus was her treasure and all her joy was in him. That’s why she could rejoice in a crust of bread and a little water. Her joy came from Jesus, not her circumstances.

When we look to the things of this world to provide our joy we will always be disappointed, for we have been designed to find our satisfaction in God alone:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.  Isaiah 55:1-2

God tells us not to spend our money for that which is not bread. In other words, don’t live for the things of this world. They are like plastic fruit, which might look tasty, but ultimately won’t satisfy. Pursue him who truly satisfies, Jesus Christ, the bread of life. If we have Jesus we don’t need anything else. If we have Jesus, then all other blessings are just extras – icing on the cake.

If the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned could rejoice over a crust of bread, how much more should we be thankful who not only have Christ but have a thousand other blessings in our lives. How about you? Can you say this about your life today – What! All this, and Christ too?

Can I suggest a simple practice that will bring joy into your life and help cultivate thankfulness? After a time in God’s word in the morning, I try to take 10 minutes and write things I am grateful for in a journal. I write things as simple as “Thank you for the sunshine and warm weather,” or “Thank you for my eyesight and hearing,” or “Thank you that I got to spend time with my granddaughter yesterday.” Or I might thank God for spiritual blessings, like, “Thank you for saving me and washing all my sins away,” or “Thank you for giving me eternal life” or “Thank you for your steadfast love and your mercies new every morning.” I usually write no more than a page. This habit sets the stage for my day, and reminds me to thank Jesus throughout the day for his unceasing mercies. Give it a try.

Rejoice in Jesus today. Look around and echo the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned: What! All this, and Christ too?


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


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.


13 Reasons You Are Precious to God

We who believe in Jesus can often be more aware of our sin and unworthiness than God’s love for and delight in us. We may believe that God accepts us in his son, but it’s hard to believe he takes pleasure in us and views us as precious to him. Yet 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that God cares for us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us God delights in his children and rejoices over them. Here are thirteen reasons you are precious to God:

Because he created you
Because he created you in his own image
Because he purchased you with the blood of his Son
Because he has washed away all your sins
Because he adopted you as his own child
Because he has joined you to Christ, made you one with his Son
Because you are part of his bride
Because he has put his own Spirit in you
Because he is transforming you more and more into the likeness of his Son
Because he is manifesting a fragrance of Christ through you to the world
Because he has imputed the very righteousness of Christ to you
Because he has plans and a purpose for you
Because you delight in his Son and desire to obey and glorify him

We can’t fathom God’s incredible love for us. In and of ourselves, there would be nothing to attract him, nothing for him to delight in. But he has made us new creations in Christ, created in the likeness of Jesus, in whom is all his delight.

Praise God today that he has made you precious and delightful to himself.


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.


7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years of Pastoral Ministry

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Our example is every bit as important as important as our words

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

Paul told his churches to imitate him. People are watching us—our neighbors, relatives, fellow believers, and our children—and as one man said, our kids can smell hypocrisy a mile away. Once at a local deli counter, the man fetching my cheese said, “Hey, aren’t you the pastor at that church on Wayne Avenue?” I’d never seen him before but thought at the time, This guy knows I’m a pastor. What if I’d had a bad attitude if he sliced my Muenster too thick? None of us are perfect, but we should make it our goal to act like Christ wherever we are. Would people want to imitate you in the way you go through hard things, or how you react when someone blasts you in anger, or how you act when your plans go awry, or your kids disobey?

Every day we have countless opportunities to model humility, kindness, gentleness, holiness, thankfulness – to model Jesus—for fellow believers and a watching world. And our example is every bit as important as our words.

God’s people want to please him

This may seem ridiculous, but early on I thought I needed to convince people to obey Jesus against their wills. When I led worship, my unconscious mindset was: These people don’t really want to worship Jesus. I have to whip them into it. I’d give exhortations like, “Come on everybody, let’s worship Jesus like you really mean it.” I had to preach so as to whip them out of their lethargy to serving God. Now I think differently. Generally, God’s people want to please him. That’s why they’re there on Sunday. Sure, they get beat down by life and fall into sin or unbelief at times. They need to be encouraged to lift their eyes to Jesus and trust him, but he’s given them new hearts and his Spirit. Deep down they want to please him, obey him and worship him.

Anything good that happens is God’s doing

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12

We’re so prone to look at our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves. Look what I did! There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about something we’ve done. After all, when God created the earth, he looked at what he had created each day and saw that it was good. But ultimately, if we do anything good it’s because God has gifted us, helped us, and prospered us. We need to remember that all we have is a gift from God, and we have nothing but what we’ve received, and in response, try to regularly give him thanks for all he does for us.

In every negative criticism there’s almost always some truth

Even if someone’s criticism is completely off, there’s almost always something we can learn. James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Often when someone brings us negative criticism, our first reaction can be to defend ourselves or write them off. Someone’s critique may not be 100% correct, but I’ve found there’s almost always something I need to see or learn from it.

Once I was working through some things with an offended brother and a friend gave me this great advice: sit down with him and take notes, without defending yourself or responding until he shares all that’s on his mind. Then, if there’s anything to ask forgiveness for, do so. If you’re not convicted of sin, tell him you’ll seriously consider all he shared and thank him for caring about you enough to meet and talk. Later, after considering what he said, you might respond to some of his points.

Preach every message to yourself

Pastors, teachers, parents – preach to yourself first. Though I hope my teachings affect others, I want God’s word to search me first. Never “pulpit punch”. That is, never try to address a particular individual in the church through your preaching. If you need to talk to someone about something, go to them in private. Sometimes when people say, “Mark, you were preaching directly to me in that message. I felt like we were the only ones in the room,” I say, “Thanks for listening! I was preaching to myself.”

Disagreement is not disloyalty

Sadly, strong leaders sometimes interpret disagreement as disloyalty. Don’t be offended when people question you or disagree with you. Challenging one another can be really healthy. Husbands, if your wife disagrees with you, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t support you or stand behind you. She’s probably trying to help you. Pastors, you don’t always have to be right. Recently a fellow pastor graciously pointed out some areas of weakness in my life, not because he was being critical or disloyal, but exactly the opposite—because he cares about me and wants me to focus on things I’m good at.

Sometimes you have to take the high road

Once I was trying to work through some issues with a brother who I felt had wronged me. He just couldn’t see what I wanted him to see. We had a number of conversations and I just couldn’t make my point. As I shared my frustration with another brother, he said, “Mark sometimes you just have to take the high road. I think you’re wanting something from him you’re not going to get. You should just forgive him, pray for him, then trust the Lord that if he wants him to see something, he’ll show it to him.” Life-changing advice. The man never did see what I wanted him to see, but I was able to put it in God’s hands and it never bothered me after that.

I’ve learned a lot more over the years, but that’s plenty for now. Hopefully more to come in future posts….


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.


Bitter to Sweet

I love how the Lord provides for his people in unexpected ways.

Peter doesn’t know where the cash will come from to pay the temple tax, so Jesus tells him to go fishing. He pulls out a fish with a gold coin in its mouth. Another time the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowds away so they can go into the local towns and grab some food. But Jesus comes out of left field again and turns a few fish and rolls into a picnic for thousands.

Three days after the Israelites watch God split the Red Sea and engulf the Egyptian army, they come to a place called Marah (Ex 15:22). Three days and they have yet to find any water. Their lips are cracked and their throats parched. So when they see desert sun glinting on water their hopes soar. But when they run to taste it, it’s brackish. It’s obviously Moses’ fault. He should have done a Google search for the nearest pure watering hole before leaving Egypt. “Hey miracle man, what are we going to drink?” they gripe. They were obviously suffering short term memory loss. Hadn’t God miraculously saved them from Pharaoh just 3 days earlier? How often our first response to any trial is to grumble and plunge into instant unbelief.

Moses does the wisest thing to do when in trouble – he cries out to the Lord. Immediately, God shows Moses a log, or tree (ESV footnote). Moses takes the tree, tosses it into the filthy water, and it becomes not merely drinkable, but sweet!

Approximately 1500 years later God again unexpectedly provides for his people by a tree. When our lives are bitter and brackish with sin, when there is no earthly way to cleanse our putrid souls, God takes his sinless Son and nails him to a tree. A Roman cross, drenched in the blood of Jesus, makes our bitter lives sweet.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Ga. 3:13).

Obviously, it isn’t the Roman cross that sweetened our lives, but the One nailed to the tree, taking our bitter curse so he could give us his sweet forgiveness and peace. Praise God for his unsearchable wisdom and unexpected salvation! Praise Jesus for immersing himself in our polluted world and by his death giving us life and sweetness and light.


The One Question That Creates Humility and Thankfulness

What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7

Meditating on this truth goes a long way toward producing humility and thankfulness in us. All that we know about God we received as a gift, either from God or from others. Our knowledge of God comes primarily from Scripture. We didn’t write it or print it or distribute the Bible. God gave his word to Moses and Isaiah and Matthew and Paul, who wrote it down. Others distributed it, translated it, printed it. Eventually God’s word came to us. Maybe someone witnessed to us or we heard a preacher or someone gave us a Bible. But all we know of God is ultimately a gift from God and others.

Our talents, our ability to think, our eyes, ears, hands, fingers—all a gift from God. If you can read this you are using hundreds of blessings he has heaped on you. The other day I was racking my brain to try to remember something I hadn’t thought about for months. Suddenly it popped into my mind. Where in the world does memory come from? What a miracle. Our brain—a mass of flesh—can store immaterial information, then recall it. My 95 year old dad is in a personal care facility, highly medicated for pain and out of it much of the time, will sing along if you start singing “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” a song written by Irving Berlin in 1935, sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1935 movie Top Hat. How does that work? What a gift memory is. (And what a gift is Google, which I used to look up the song.)

Our incomes, jobs, our home—all gifts from God. “But I worked hard to get my degree, applied myself, worked hard—that’s how I got where I am.” Who gave you your intelligence to study? Who gave you diligence? Who made the opportunities for you to advance? All you have is a gift.

All we have we were given. The country we were born in, the language we speak, the educational opportunities—we didn’t make those for ourselves. Hey Mr. Proud Peacock, nice feathers you’re strutting around showing off. Who gave you those? Did you make them yourself?

What do you have that you did not receive? Think about this today. Turn it into thankfulness and humility before your generous King.


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.


Why We Should Keep Waiting For God

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 30:18)

The ESV Study Bible comments on this passage:

“Note the amazing logic of grace: God’s people forsake him for a false salvation (vv. 1–17); therefore, he is gracious to them (v. 18). But he waits, for the Lord is a God of justice, i.e., he knows the perfect way to achieve his purpose, the perfect time to go into action, and the perfect disciplinary process that will awaken Judah.”

Judah had taken refuge from her enemies by turning to Egypt for protection – “a false salvation”, rather than turning to God. But God wasn’t finished yet. He was waiting for the perfect time to be gracious to them, the perfect time to “awaken” them, the perfect time to pour out his mercy. And when he did be gracious to them, he would “exalt himself—he would display his glory.

Are you waiting on God for something? Praying and praying yet the answer seems to not be coming? God has a perfect timing. He is waiting until the perfect time to be gracious to you. The time that will be best for you and bring the most glory to him. He is a God of justice—he won’t fail to answer prayer. He won’t fail to treat you justly. He won’t fail to be true to his promises. He would be unjust if he told us to trust him and wait for him, then fail to be gracious. But blessed are all those who wait for him.

Why should we keep waiting for God? Because he is waiting for the perfect time to bless us. He has bags and bags of grace stored up for us. He’s just waiting for the absolute best time to heap them upon us. So keep watching for the One who plans to be gracious to you. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep trusting him. Keep your mind stayed on him. Don’t go running to Egypt for salvation. Don’t go running to the world for relief.  “Blessed are all those who wait for him.” When God does pour out his grace you’ll appreciate it more than ever. Who knows? Today might be the day he answers your prayers.


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


12 Things To Do When You’re Criticized

We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.

Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)

This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.

Be slow to speak (James 1:19).

Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.

Be slow to become angry.

Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.

Don’t rail back.

“When (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.

Give a gentle response.  

“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.

Don’t defend yourself too quickly.

Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.

Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.

Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.

Remember the Cross.

Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure, but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.

Consider the fact that you have blind spots  

We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.

Pray about the criticism

Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalms 32:8).

Ask others for their opinion

Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.

Consider the source.  

Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.


What To Do While You’re Waiting For The Light To Dawn

 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. (PS 112.4)

I know how it feels to be in the darkness. Literally and spiritually. I remember touring Onondaga Cave in Missouri as a kid. At one point the tour guide turned out the lights. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I also remember when I walked in spiritual darkness and the Lord shone his light into my darkened heart. And I remember many times since believing that Jesus has taken me through dark and dismal valleys where all I could do is trust him until his light broke through.

When we’re in the darkness of affliction, our temptation is to circle the wagons and turn inward. We’re tempted to self-pity and self-focus. To withdraw. We don’t feel like being around others. But God tells us to do the opposite. When we’re in the darkness we should seek his grace to be others-oriented. To be gracious, merciful, generous. And Psalm 112 emphasizes being generous to the poor.

While we wait for God’s light to dawn in our darkness, we should:

  • Fear the Lord and delight in his commands (PS 112:1)
  • Be gracious and merciful (4)
  • Deal generously and lend (5)
  • Continue to steadfastly trust the Lord (7-8)
  • Distribute freely and give to the poor (9)

So as you pray and wait for God to save a loved one or break through in your own night, keep trusting in the Lord. Give to the poor. Give to Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse. Wire some money to a pastor in a poor nation. Bless someone in need in your church.

And remember, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, hung in the darkness of God’s wrath for 3 hours for you, so that his light could pierce the darkness of your sin and lostness. If he did the greater thing – opening your blind eyes and bringing you into his glorious light – then surely he will do the lesser thing now that you are his beloved child – to answer your prayers for your loved one or meet your need.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (PR 4:18)

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

PS 37:3-6

Keep trusting Jesus. He has not abandoned you. He is just waiting for the perfect moment for his light to dawn in your darkness.


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


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.


That Thing We Don’t Like to Think About

It’s that thing we don’t like to think about.  

It’s like the weird uncle locked in the basement.  Every now and then we hear him knock around down there and we try to ignore him.

It’s like distant lightning. Every once in a while it flits across the horizon but we quickly look the other way. Because we get uncomfortable when we think about it. Oh, we know it’s coming sometime, a long, long time from now. There’ll be time to think about it later. What is “it”?  Death.

As a culture, we do a pretty good job of hiding death from ourselves. When someone dies, we quickly whisk them off to a mortician who makes them look as good as possible. We have a few hours of viewing the body, we hold a funeral, close the casket and everybody goes to a luncheon.

We don’t like to think about death. At least not our own. We’re a funny people – we have all kinds of TV shows about murders, police, and emergency rooms, yet we don’t like contemplating our fragility. We think we’re going to live forever. If we just work out, don’t eat too much fat, and buckle our seat belts, we’ll be the next Methuselah.

It wasn’t always like this. For example, when Jonathan Edwards lived:

“Colonial citizens of the 17th and 18th centuries knew a world much different from ours. They had no hospitals. They possessed precious few working remedies for illness. They knew very little about the causes of sickness – germ theory, for example, did not emerge until the mid-19th century. Pregnancy and labor were potentially fearful undertakings: scholars have estimated that one in six children died in colonial America, meaning that most families would mourn the loss of at least one or two children in their lifetime…. Attacks from Native Americans posed a constant threat in many places. American colonists did not study death out of a perverse fascination, but practical necessity. Where we try to cheat death they prepared themselves to meet death.” Strachan and Sweeney, Heaven & Hell, The Essential Edwards Collection

People in  Jonathan Edwards’ day didn’t believe they could play the “Get Out of Death” card. They were more aware of its reality. And they prepared for it. If we thought more about how uncertain this life is, we might prep more for the next one. Reality check:

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field… Psalms 103:15

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalms 144:4

In college I felt invincible. It might have been the drugs. As invincible as we can feel, all it would take is for one tiny blood vessel in our brain to break to launch us into eternity. I think many of us tend to be like the man in Jesus’ parable:

And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ Luke 12:19-20

So what should we do? Sit around with long faces? Dress in black and wear Grim Reaper masks? No – believers in Jesus Christ have hope of everlasting life in heaven. We should be the most joyful people on earth. But we can so easily adapt the world’s mindset. So here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Consider often how tenuous this life is.
  • Be ready to die. Be certain Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Make sure all your relationships are good – ask forgiveness of anyone you need to. Forgive anyone who has sinned against you.
  • Make the most of your time. Grab any opportunity you can to love and serve others. Encourage people. And be patient with them. Bless them. Give to the kingdom and the poor. Overflow with thanks and praise. And live a holy life.

I love this life as much as the next guy. But I don’t want to forget it’s field grass. There’s an infinitely better life to come.