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.

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.


4 Ways Prayer Humbles Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


8 Questions to Help Guard Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

What am I believing about God?

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

Am I constantly giving thanks?

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

Am I giving into any condemnation?

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

Am I casting my cares on God?

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

How am I interpreting my life?

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

Am I being attracted to any sin or the world?

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

Do I fear God?

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

Am I humble?

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

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


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


Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just it – everybody does it.

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

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

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

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

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

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


12 Benefits of Afflictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What the Arrows of Affliction Prepare Us For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.