Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge

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

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

13 Scriptures to Meditate on When Your Future Is Uncertain

At one time or another, all of us will face times of uncertainty.

Maybe you graduated from college and have no idea what you will do this coming January. Perhaps you just lost your job. Or you’ve just moved to a new area where you know no one. Maybe you’ve just started a new job and feel overwhelmed at the challenges that loom before you. Maybe you’re single and wonder if you’ll ever get married. Your life may even be so uncertain you don’t know where your next meal will come from.

The reality is that none of us are secure in this world except in Christ. Nothing is certain. We aren’t guaranteed our next meal. We aren’t even guaranteed our next heartbeat. Even when we feel secure, we are incredibly fragile and completely dependent on the Lord for every breath. But when we are particularly tempted about the future it is important for us to meditate on these bedrock truths. My suggestion would be to copy these verses and put them somewhere so you can see them regularly, like in your Bible or on your fridge. Even if you only meditate on the first three or four, God will use his word to encourage your heart.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. Psalm 37:37

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.  Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:17-18 

My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.  Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24:13-14

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. Psalm 37:25


5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

I don’t know about you, but I can be easily distracted when I’m praying. But over the years I’ve picked up some great ways to focus my prayers.... Here are 5 more ways I’ve learned to help me sharpen my prayers.

1) Write out your prayers

Often I will begin my prayer time by writing out things I’m thankful for. I write them to the Lord, almost like a letter, beginning with something like this: “Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, Thank you for….” or “Lord Jesus, Thank you for…” and I go on to write things I’m grateful for. Writing my thanks keeps me focused. Sometimes I begin a time of prayer by reading past thanksgivings I’ve written. I’ve also found that writing out other prayers has been very helpful as well.... As I pray the prayers I have written, I don’t restrict myself to reading them word for word, but use them as reminders.

2) Pray specific Bible verses

In my “family” section of my prayers, I have several Scriptures that are promises for parents about their children, like the following:

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

“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.” Is 59:21

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37:25–26

Often I will read these Bible verses aloud, then ask the Lord to please do what the verses say he will do. Using Scripture when we pray builds our faith, for we can know we are asking according to God’s will. I often quote Ps 32:8 when asking for wisdom. I pray something like this, “Father you have said in your word, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’; so, I ask that you would please counsel me with your eye upon me. Please show me the way I should go in this situation.”

Lately I have been quoting Matthew 7:11 in my prayers:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I’ll pray something like this, “Father, you’ve told me that you give good things to those who ask you. So, I ask that you would please heal (insert name). Healing and health are good things, so I am asking that you give them this, according to your will.”

3) Make lists

In addition to writing out specific prayers, I have found lists to be helpful. I have a list of people I am asking Jesus to save. I have a list of “current needs” of family and friends. Lists help me stay on track when I’m praying. I don’t pray through every list every day, and I don’t always pray through a whole list. But at least I have it written down to remind me from time to time.

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

Use each phrase to trigger a “theme” for example: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.” Praise you that you are my Father. I praise you that you are in heaven, sovereign over all. Hallowed be your name—holy is you name. Praise you for your holiness and perfect purity and glory.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Father, please save multitudes in every nation. Please save my children and grandchildren. Please bring your kingdom rule into my neighbors’ lives, etc.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Father, please provide for my children. Please provide for us. Father, if it would be your will, please give me…..

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

Some have found praying in response to their Bible reading to be most effective for them. In your daily bible reading, stop and pray as God’s word speaks to you. For example, if you read, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” pray, “Lord Jesus, please help me to obey your word. Help me to “do” it, to put it into practice.” If you read Lamentations 3:21–23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” pray, “Lord Jesus, thank you for your unceasing steadfast love. Thank you for your mercies that are new this morning. Praise you for your great faithfulness and unceasing love for me. Please give me more and more hope.”

How about you? What are some ways you have found that help you focus your prayers?


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

The One Phrase that Can Diffuse Any Argument

Want to know how to diffuse an argument? Want to know how to cool the flames of a heated debate?

The other night my wife and I were talking with my daughter and son-in-law about the early years of our marriage. Kristi and I had plenty of challenges our first year or two as we were adjusting to our new life together. We were committed to making our marriage glorify the Lord, but when two human beings—even two believers in Jesus—come together, their desires and sins often come into conflict.

Kristi told my daughter, “I would get very heated at times and raise my voice. I had done that in my family since I was a child. I had to be right. And I would keep arguing and arguing to prove my point. But in our arguments your dad would often state his side, then he’d add, ‘But I could be wrong.’ That would diffuse the argument. And eventually I realized that coming out of an argument as ‘right’ was not as necessary as being humble. Eventually I began to realize that I could be wrong about things, even if I felt 99% sure I was right. So, I began to force myself to say ‘I could be wrong’ when arguing about things. At first it felt totally unnatural to say it, but as I practiced saying it, it became more natural. And I began to realize how good it was for our marriage not to always expect Mark to always cave in to me, but it was important for us both to leave the possibility open that the other person could be right and I could be totally wrong.”

I’m glad Kristi remembers it this way, but I know that I didn’t always respond well in our conflicts. I thought I was right. I pushed for my position. I was proud. But if I happened to respond in any humble way in our conflicts part of it may have been that early in my Christian life I was taught that we all have blind spots—things about ourselves that we can’t see. We can think we’re right and yet not see something that is glaringly obvious to others. And I also remember being taught this Scripture from Proverbs:

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (PR 26.12).

A biblical “fool” is a wicked person, a God-hater, not just a silly person. And there is more hope for a biblical fool than a man who is wise in his own eyes. A man who thinks he is right all the time. A man who thinks he can’t be wrong.

Only God is omniscient. Only God is never wrong. Only God is infinitely and perfectly wise. God is the only one who perfectly knows the motives of our hearts. He knows why we do things, what is best to do, and he understands every aspect of every situation. But we, who are fallen creatures, even when made anew in Christ, are limited and fallible. All of us are wrong at times. Even when we’re sure we are right. We may have right information but wrong motivation. We may be intelligent, but the most intelligent of men don’t know everything.

This doesn’t mean we can’t discuss things, make our points, state our observations, etc. But we must always guard against pride. It’s always lurking there, ready to raise its ugly head. At least in my heart it is. We must always guard against being wise in our own eyes. We should always try to be teachable, even when being addressed by someone much younger or less experienced.

So keep this little phrase in your back pocket: “I could be wrong.” Believe it. Even when you think you are right. Remember we all have blind spots and are not the ultimate judge of all things. Beware being wise in your own eyes. Lord Jesus, help us to be humble.


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 Best Way To Spend Your Life

Complete 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to…

  1. Have your best life now
  2. Become the person you were intended to be
  3. Be fulfilled
  4. Develop yourself to your full potential
  5. Make a name for yourself
  6. Find the love of your life
  7. Make a difference in the world
  8. Get your act together
  9. Do great things
  10. Serve the living and true God

If you chose number 10 you were correct.

Let me put the whole verse together:

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… 1 Thessalonians 1:9

This is what the Christian life is all about – serving the living and true God. It doesn’t matter how we serve him. We may serve him in large ways or small ways. That’s up to him. But the point is is we are to live to serve God. Whether our lives improve or not. Whether we find success in this world or not. It’s not about success. It’s not about personal fulfillment. It’s about serving the living and true God.

In fact at times our lives will not “improve.” They will get harder. We will be persecuted. We’ll suffer trials of various kinds. But that doesn’t matter as long as we are serving the living and true God.

At times it won’t seem worth it in this life (though it always is). But it will definitely be worth it in the next life.

Years ago I heard someone preach a message on this passage:

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep… Acts 13:36

The preacher said this is what it’s all about – to serve God’s purpose in our generation. Not our own purposes, not our own selfish ambitions, but God’s purpose. This really affected me as a young believer and I wanted to do this. And I wrote a song about it– the music is kind of corny now but the words are still true:

I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
I want to live my life for something that will last forever
Oh I delight, I delight to do your will.

Do you want to live your life for something that last forever? If we live for anything else we are living for things that will pass away.

David served the purpose of God in his own generation and fell asleep. Wouldn’t it be great if people said that about you at your funeral? “She served the purpose of God in her generation.” Wouldn’t that be great to have on your tombstone? “He served the purpose of God in his generation.”

Lord Jesus, help us live to serve the living and true God. Let us serve your purpose in our generation.


How to Fight the Good Fight for Joy

Christians should be marked by joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. If knowing Jesus doesn’t bring us a deeper joy than those who don’t know him, what’s the point? This doesn’t mean Christians don’t suffer and experience depression, discouragement, sadness and grief. Paul said in 2 Co 6:10 that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” So somehow, even in the throes of sorrow, Paul had joy.

Jesus promised us joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Ultimately our fullness of joy will be in heaven. But Jesus wants us to know his joy now. Believers begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit in this life, and one of those fruits is joy.

Ps 16:11 says “in your presence there is fullness of joy.” Though fullness of joy awaits us in heaven, we begin to taste that joy in this life.

So how do we experience Christ’s joy now? As John Piper says, it’s a fight, part of the good fight of faith. Here are some ways to fight:

Realize that all lasting joy is found in Christ. Jeremiah 2:13 says “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” When we look to anything else but Jesus for lasting joy we’ll come up empty.

Abide in Christ. Seek him, walk with him, rest in him, trust him. In John 15:9-11 Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Take in God’s Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” God’s word is a conduit of his joy to us. As we continue to take it in, believe and obey it, it becomes a joy and delight. His promises give us hope and make us glad.

Thank him and praise him for as much as you can. Thank him for spiritual blessings and material blessings. A thankful heart is a joyful heart.

Ask Jesus for joy. As David prayed in Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

Contemplate your salvation and heaven to come. In Luke 10:20 Jesus said, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Tell yourself to hope in God. David took himself by the collar and shook himself in Psalm 42:5-6 and said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Jesus came for our joy. Sometimes it’s not easy to experience, but if we continue to abide in Christ it will be worth it. No one in heaven will say it wasn’t worth going through what they went through on earth. So don’t give up. Keep fighting the good fight.


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


How to Grow Strong in Your Faith

In Romans 4, Paul tells us Abraham “grew strong in his faith” and urges us to walk in Abraham’s footsteps. To believe like he believed. How do we do this?

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Look to God’s promise not your circumstances.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations (18)

Abraham’s situation looked bleak. God promised him multitudes of descendants, but the only problem was he was well past child producing. “He considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old).” He also considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Not only was Abraham almost 100 years old, but Sarah his wife was very old, and she had never been able to have children her whole life. How are they going to have children? If Abraham had based his hope on his circumstances he would have given up. But In hope he believed against hope—God’s promise gave him hope in his hopeless situation. He put his hope in God’s promise, not his circumstances.

We may feel hopelessly unrighteous. We may feel like God could never forgive us for the sins we have committed, that he would never accept us. But we must not look at ourselves, just like Abraham didn’t look at himself, but like Abraham, we must believe God’s promise of grace. He counts me righteous in Christ!

Our teenager may seem hopelessly lost. Our finances may be out of control. We may lack direction for our lives. Our marriage might be frustrating or our church might be a mess. Look to Jesus Christ! Don’t look to yourself. Look to the promise of the gospel—everyone who believes in him shall be saved. Look to his promises to draw near to those who draw near to him. Promises to hear and answer our prayers.

Give glory to God

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (20–21)

Abraham strengthened his faith. Here’s how: “He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Begin to give glory to God—start thanking and praising him for his every promise. Thank him for saving you and declaring you righteous in him. He has promised to be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through fire. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that nothing will be able to separate us from his love. He has promised to give us everything we truly need to glorify him. He has promised that we can do all things he requires through Christ who loves us. Praise him for these things!

We can look to our circumstances—it may not LOOK like God is being faithful. It may not FEEL like God is with us in these waters. It may FEEL like he has abandoned or forsaken us. We may not SENSE his love. But WE MUST NOT WAVER CONCERNING THE PROMISE OF GOD! Rather, we grow strong in our faith as we GIVE GLORY TO GOD, as we are fully convinced that God is able to do what he had promised.

In Ps 43 the Psalmist says “Why are you cast down O my soul? Hope in God for I shall yet praise him.” Keep thanking God, keep praising him in faith in the midst of your hard times. Say, “Jesus thank you that you are with me. Thank you have promised that your steadfast love never ceases. Praise you that your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

Growing stronger in our faith is not complicated. Look to God’s promise and glorify him. So, what are you going to believe today—God’s word or your circumstances? God’s promises or your feelings? God’s bedrock pledge of faithfulness or your wavering emotions? Walk in the footsteps of Abraham and strengthen your faith.


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 Weakling’s Secret to Being Filled with Confidence for the New Year

I’m a weak person.

I’ve started lots of things in my life and failed to finish them. I’ve made multitudes of mistakes and all kinds of poor decisions, committed lots of sins. I want to change, yet I seem to be pretty slow at it. I would make resolutions, but I know I’d forget what I resolved by the middle of next week. Yet I’m beginning the new year filled with confidence.

But this confidence is not in myself. My confidence is in someone who never fails to accomplish his purposes. And what gives me extra confidence is knowing that he has purposes for my life that he will not fail to accomplish. How do I know this? Because he tells me in Psalm 138:8:

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill HIS purpose for me. I don’t even know all his purposes for me. But I do know that his grand purpose is to bring glory to himself by making me into the likeness of his Son, as it says in Romans 8:29:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

So, I have confidence that the Lord will fulfill his purpose to make me like Christ. He will use good times and bad, times when he gives me opportunities to obey him or serve others or deny myself or put sin to death or give to the poor or humble myself. He will use my failures and successes. He will use the encouragement of others and the sins of others as well. I’m sure I’ll respond poorly at times and by his grace well at other times. But no matter how I do, the Lord will be behind the scenes fulfilling his purpose for me. That’s why I’m filled with confidence at the beginning of another year. That’s my “secret” to incredible confidence.  I’m not confident in myself but in the Lord.

Isn’t that exciting? He has a purpose for you, and he will fulfill it. He won’t fail in any way to fulfill his good plans for your life. He won’t partially complete his purpose; he won’t make any mistakes; he won’t leave anything out.

So, have confidence this year. Not in yourself, but in the Lord who will fulfill his glorious purpose for you.

Happy New Year!


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 Best Antidote For Christmas Stress

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)

Martha was doing a good thing—she was serving Jesus. She wanted him and her guests to enjoy themselves. She wanted to bless them. She wanted them to enjoy their challah and gefilte fish. There were bagels and lox and matzah ball soup and dishes of knish to bring the guests.

She was distracted by “much serving.” Martha was serving her guts out. But she was distracted. She was unable to focus or concentrate on Jesus’ words. She was probably catching some, but unable to think about what he was saying or reflect on it. “I heard him saying something about a lost sheep,” she said. “But who has time for stories? I got blintzes in the frying pan.”

Martha may have been joyful initially, but now she’s getting annoyed at her sister. Now she is serving, but not with gladness.

Jesus said Martha’s problem was deeper than mere distraction about getting the meal on the table—she was “anxious and troubled about many things.” The cares of this life regularly choked out Mary’s joy and God’s word in her life.

In Martha’s eyes, Mary was lazy or unproductive or selfish. She wasn’t getting anything done. Jesus said “one thing is necessary.” It is “the good portion.” What is that? Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” She was focused on Jesus and his word. She was undistracted in her devotion to Jesus. She was simply putting Jesus first. Her relationship with Jesus, getting to know him, and meditating on his teaching was her priority.

We too can be distracted, anxious, and troubled about many things. I talked to a friend recently whose stress on the job feels like a tsunami breaking over him. A friend’s husband has early onset dementia. I know a number of families who live paycheck to paycheck. Most of us know someone who struggles with the fury of depression or who has a sick child.

These are major temptations to anxiety and fear. Serious distractions. Now add to all this the additional distractions and stressers of the Christmas season—presents to buy and wrap, getting a tree, decorating, family gatherings, travel, then there’s the gift wrap outreach and the food collection and the Christmas Eve outreach with the live camels. Ok, most of us don’t have to worry about live camels, but you get what I mean. And if Aunt Mary and Aunt Jean come to our Christmas meal, it’s going to be tense, and who knows if Joe is even going to come… you get the idea.

Only one thing is necessary.

To sit at Jesus’ feet. To listen to his word. To rest in him.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

This may be hard to do, but we must seek to stay our minds on Jesus and trust in him. Don’t neglect to take time in God’s word and to pray this Christmas season. Put that first. Make that top priority. A little time every day in God’s word. Carve out a time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his voice. There’s no better antidote for Christmas stress.


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 Commend the Gospel to Others

We should share the gospel with others whenever we can. But our actions should validate our words.

People want to see if the gospel makes any difference in the way we live. In the way we treat others or go through tough times. Our lives can actually hinder people from believing in Jesus. A friend of mine had terrible experiences with his superior at work who claimed to be a Christian. The man’s life did not match his words at all. In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul said he was very conscious of commending his words by his lifestyle:

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way (3-4)

So how did Paul commend himself? And how can we commend ourselves?

First of all, we commend ourselves by endurance

by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; (4-5)

When we go through tough times people are watching us – our neighbors, our children, our fellow believers. Will we continue to trust God and rejoice in him in the bad times as well as sleep good? Remember when Paul and Silas were in stocks in prison? They sang hymns and the other prisoners were listening (Acts 16.25). When we trust God in hardship it speaks loudly to all around us.

Secondly, we commend ourselves by genuine love for others

by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; (6)

Our God loved us first so we should love others. First of all our Christian brothers and sisters, but all men as well. People are watching to see if we are “genuine,” sincere, not hypocrites. Do we “love” others for what we will gain, or do we love them with genuine love?

We commend ourselves by honesty

by truthful speech (7)

God never lies or deceives anyone. So his children should be the most truthful and dependable people on earth. If we say we’re going to do something we should do it. We should be honest about our failures and weaknesses.

We commend ourselves by God’s power

and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left (7)

Whenever you can ask if you can pray for someone. If your neighbor is sick or going through a tough time ask if you can pray for him. God may display his power in their lives.

We commend ourselves by responding with love when we are sinned against

through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed (8-9)

When someone insults us we don’t respond in kind, but with love. When someone slanders us we don’t slander them in return but pray for them.

We commend ourselves by rejoicing in affliction

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything (10).

When we rejoice in the midst of sorrow it shows our children, fellow believers, and unbelievers we truly believe God works all things for our good and that he is preparing an eternal weight of glory for us. When we seek to make others rich we show them where are true treasure is. We are free from the love of money because Christ makes us content.

Remember our lives speak as loudly as our words and sometimes more loudly. Today let’s ask Jesus to help us commend ourselves, and more importantly, to help us commend him to others by our lives.


Who Are You Serving This Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to serve others.

Rather than spending the whole day crashed out on the couch in a tryptophan-induced coma watching football games you don’t really care about (not that it’s wrong to crash on the couch or watch football – I’ll probably spend some time in a tryptophan-induced coma myself), try reaching out to your family members, especially if they are unbelievers. Thanksgiving is a great day to imitate Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. Here are a few ideas:

Take a genuine interest in them. Ask them if they’ve read any good books or seen any good movies lately. Ask them how it’s going on their job. Ask them about their children. If your grandfather or grandmother is there, ask them to tell you funny stories about their childhood or if they have any good stories from when they were in the Army.

Taking an interest in people is fun. If you have a relative who’s a lawyer, ask her about her most difficult case. Ask her if she’s ever said “I’ll see you in court” to someone. Ask her what she likes most and least about her job. Ask her what she does to try to persuade juries. Ask her what the funniest thing that ever happened in court was.

Serve their children. Get down the floor with their kids and play with them. Do an art project or craft project with them. Play hide and seek or “I spy” with them. Try to make a memorable Thanksgiving for the kids.

Take an interest in the teenagers. Ask them what movies they’ve seen lately or what music they’re listening to. Ask them if they’ve seen any funny YouTube videos. Ask them about any sports they’re playing.

Help set the table and clear the table. Wash the dishes. Try to be the biggest servant in the house.

If you’re as selfish as I am, you’ll need lots of grace, so don’t forget to ask the Lord to give you the desire and the strength to serve.

I’d like to have some more ideas for how I can serve my relatives – any you can share with me?

Happy Thanksgiving!


God's Perfect Timing for You

Have you ever cried out “How long, O Lord?”

Ever wondered when God will save your child? Do you ever get tired of asking God again and again for something just doesn’t come? We want answers now, but God has a perfect timing for everything in our lives. Israel experienced this perfect timing after they set foot in the promised land.

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. Joshua 5.10-12

Israel had spend 40 years in the wilderness, and now God had miraculously held back the waters of the Jordan and brought them into the promised land. God had them circumcise themselves to renew their covenant with him, then celebrate the Passover, which reminded them how the blood of their lambs had saved them from God’s judgment on Egypt.

“And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.”

For 40 years they’d eaten nothing but manna. Now on the day after they remember how God saved them – “on that very day” – they eat of the produce of the land. God had kept his promise to bring them here and now the produce of the land is a pledge God is going to give it completely into their hands.

And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

See God’s perfect timing? “And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land”….And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land.”

“On that very day”…”the day after”…perfect timing!

God has a perfect timing for everything in our lives. A perfect time to meet our needs. A perfect time to save our loved ones. A perfect time for you to meet your future husband or wife. A perfect time – a very day and hour – for every trial to end. Keep trusting God. Keep praying. Keep asking, seeking and knocking. Wait patiently. God has a perfect timing for everything in your life. Who knows? Today just might be God’s perfect time to answer your prayers.


15 Essentials to Finish Life Well

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 TI 4.7

It doesn’t matter how we start the Christian race. Many explode out of the gate like racehorses, only to stumble along the way. We regularly hear of the failures of Christian leaders. Believers get ensnared by pride, drugs, and sexual sin. 20-year believers sometimes wind up agnostics or atheists. I hope, by God’s grace, I finish well.

Here are 15 truths to meditate on as we run this race:

Keep Jesus your treasure.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. PS 16.5-6

Paul’s main goal in life was to press on to know Jesus more and more. When Jesus is our treasure the lures and attractions of the world pale in comparison.

Be consistent in Bible intake

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. PS 119.11

When we drift from God’s word, we set ourselves up to fall. God’s word is filled with promises, warnings and wisdom to keep us from drifting and sinning.

Pray constantly

Pray without ceasing 1 Thess 5.17

When we neglect prayer we miss out on God’s help and power. He is a rewarder of those who seek him. He is waiting to give us strength and joy when we ask.

Cultivate the fear of the Lord

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. PR 19.23

God will not be mocked, and he will lovingly discipline us for sin. When we fear God we know he sees our every act and knows our every thought. The fear of the Lord will spare us from so many sins that would derail us.

Cultivate trust in God. Beware unbelief.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. PR 3.5

When things go well it’s easy to trust God. But when hard times hit, we are tempted to think he’s abandoned us or isn’t faithful. We’re tempted to look for other things to satisfy us. Let us regularly quote Peter, “Where would I go Lord? You have the words of eternal life.

Don’t forget you have an enemy

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 PE 5.8

We often forget we have a real enemy. If he can’t steal our eternal life, Satan will try to get us to sin and be unfruitful. He’s going to tempt you today. Are you ready?

Beware the cares and worries of this world

…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. MK 4.19

The cares of this world – our kids, our bills, our health, our homes, our grades, our jobs…all these things press on us. We must be diligent in God’s word or the world will choke our faith.

Guard against the love of money

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 TI 6.10

It’s so easy to think “I don’t love money.” But are you generous? Do you give to the poor? To your church? How much do you think about the next thing you want to buy? The love of money has caused may to wander away from the faith.

Watch over your heart

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

What are you believing about God? About your life? Are you beginning to give in to some kind of temptation? What kinds of things are you taking in to your mind? Are you inwardly grumbling and complaining? Are you thinking thoughts of self-pity? Or are you seeking to praise God inwardly? Do you tell yourself God is working all this for my good? What we think about regularly is critical – our thoughts are “the springs of life.”

Flee immorality

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 CO 6.18

Stay as far from it as you can. Don’t go near the magazine rack. Don’t flirt with it online. Pray daily, “Lead me not into temptation.” All day long, pray, “Lord Jesus, keep me from lust.” Stay out of the car in the park in the dark. Don’t go near the door of her house. Sexual sin has derailed multitudes.

Expect you will suffer. Be prepared for disappointments and pain.

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

Christians sometimes forget they will suffer. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” “I can’t believe this happened to me.” Sooner or later, Jesus takes us through fire and floods. Be ready for them and they won’t undo you.

Don’t have any secrets – be honest with others

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another JA 5.16

David hid his sin and it only multiplied. Share your burdens and temptations with others. Don’t have a secret life. Have at least one person you can share your struggles with.

Try to thank God continually

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5.18

Thankfulness keeps our focus on God and off ourselves. It expresses faith and produces joy.

Seek to cultivate humility – guard against pride

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. PR 29.23

Listen to others. Be teachable. Pride has wrecked so many. God gives grace to the humble. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. Remember you have blind spots. You don’t know everything. You’re not always right. Others have insights you need.

Think often of heaven

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 PE 2.11

If we remember we are only passing through this world and our true home is heaven it will motivate us to abstain from fleshly passions. Paul kept his eyes on the crown he’d receive for running the race and fighting faith’s fight. Live to hear God say at the end of your life, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

There are probably many more truths to consider to finish our lives in Christ well. But I hope these encourage 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.