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 Key to Enduring to the Finish Line

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (HEB 12:1–2)

A couple of years ago I did the only athletic accomplishment in my life. I use the word “athletic” loosely. My son Stephen challenged me to run a half marathon, so I began training a couple months in advance. My only goal was to finish the race. I fully expected to come in last. Actually, I came in third from last—followed by a guy with a walker and a mom pushing her baby in a stroller. Just kidding. But the training and the race required endurance. And the last couple miles of the race were brutal for me. I got to the place where I would jog 10 steps then walk 10 steps, then repeat, gasping for air. The course passed through some woods, and finally I came to a clearing where I could see the finish line in the distance. So, I walked for a few minutes, then burst out of the woods and sprinted over the finish line. Stephen and a few others from the church who’d waited for me began to cheer as I pumped my fists in the air like Rocky. Since then, I’m happy to report I have jogged I think a total of two times.

The author of Hebrews compares our Christian life to a race that requires endurance. He uses the metaphor of a race, not a journey. A journey may be leisurely. We can take breaks, pull over to a rest stop, get a hotel room. But a race is all-out effort from start to finish. But how do we do this? By looking to Jesus, and imitating his example.

How did Jesus endure the horrific pain of the cross? By focusing on the JOY set before him—the joy he’d experience when he rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the throne of God. The joy he’d experience when the Father received him and gave him the Name above every names. The joy he’ll have when he celebrates the marriage supper of the lamb with the multitudes of those he redeemed from every tribe and tongue. Jesus didn’t focus on his pain or the injustice he experienced. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. We often tend to focus on our suffering. I’m not saying we should ignore our pain or put on a fake smile and say it doesn’t hurt. But sometimes we focus too much on our pain—why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this?

We need to keep resetting our gaze on the joy set before us. My dad used to tell long circuitous stories. You would mention something and it would trigger a memory for him. For example, once I said something about a candy bar. He launched into a story about traveling across the country and meeting this guy who had a truck and on and on and on, and I’d wonder, “Dad, where are you going with this?” until finally he came to the place where the guy discovered a whole truckload of Kit Kat Bars. I got distracted by the details, but Dad kept his eye on the goal.

So, keep setting your heart on the joy of seeing Jesus face to face and gazing on his splendor. The joy of Jesus wiping every tear from your eyes. The joy of Jesus rewarding you for every single act of obedience, every secret good deed you did, every glass of water you gave to a thirsty one, every dollar you ever gave to the poor, every hour you served in children’s ministry. Keep your eyes on the joy of hearing God say well done good and faithful servant. Keep your eyes on the joy of fellowshipping with Jesus at the marriage supper of the lamb. Remember the joy of having an imperishable body that will never get sick or suffer any pain. Keep your eyes on the joy of ruling and reigning with Jesus and the joy you’ll know when you’re reunited to loved ones who believed in Jesus.


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


The Habit That Changed My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


4 Ways to Live in a World That’s Crumbling

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

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

Live for the unshakeable kingdom

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

Be thankful

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

Ask God for grace

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

Have a healthy fear

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Someday It Will be Worth It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someday it will be worth it. Peter tells us:

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

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

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


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


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.


How to Help a Christian Who 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.