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.

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.


6 Questions to Ask Ourselves in Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.  Am I trusting God to convince this person?

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

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

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

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

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


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


2 Mistakes to Avoid When Facing Temptation

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

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

Mistake #1: Underestimate the power of temptation.

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

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

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

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

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

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

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

Mistake #2: Overestimate the power of temptation.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Keep short accounts

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

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

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

4) Above all, seek the glory of God.

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

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

There you have it:

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

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


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


Blessed to Not be Blessed

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

Sometimes we’re blessed to not be blessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s something to praise him for.


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


The Rhythm of Thanks and Prayer

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

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

Psalm 100:4 tells us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


2 Keys to Overcoming Temptation

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

God spares us much temptation we’ll never even know about. But when we are tempted, God doesn’t automatically remove it; we must actively fight it. Paul gives us 2 keys for battling temptation—both have to do with presenting the members of our bodies. We can present our members—our eyes, ears, hands, arms, and every part of our bodies—to sin or we can present our bodies to God.

First we must not present ourselves to sin. To present ourselves to sin is to say, “Here sin, use my eyes for a while. Use me to sin. Come on in to my thoughts and ruminate around.” To not present ourselves to sin is to flee temptation. Get out of there. Turn off the TV.

When I was single, an attractive girl I worked with invited me to come to her house the following Saturday to go horseback riding. I was thinking about going but could feel I was being tempted toward her. I remembered the Proverb about an adulterous woman (not that this young lady was) that said, “Do not go near the door of her house.” I thought, if I go to her house, and knock on the door, then I’ll go in the house, then I might go with her to the couch, then…. so I didn’t go horseback riding that Saturday.

Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful passions”—run! I once heard a preacher say he told young men and women, “Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.” The same preacher said, “A good run is better than a bad fall.” Another young preacher once said he took running from temptation so seriously that when he was tempted sexually, he would go for a literal run around a track.

We are like gatekeepers over our minds. We can’t always help what presents itself to us—what comes up to the gate—but we don’t have to let everything in to entertain it. There are times we must quit watching a movie or reading a book rather than continuing to present our minds to temptation.

The second part of battling sin is to present ourselves to God. The first is negative—don’t present yourself to sin. This part is positive—DO present yourself to God.

When tempted, we should turn to God in prayer and worship. When a young believer, I experienced horrible fear at night—probably because as a teen I’d watched every horror movie, Twilight Zone, and scary show I could watch. I had a real fear of demons at that time—so when fear would come knocking at night I would try to fight it by rebuking fear in Jesus’ name over and over. But it never went away no matter how much I rebuked it. Then I heard that rather than continuing to rebuke fear I should turn to God in worship. So, I’d rebuke fear once, then start saying, “Jesus, praise you that you are before me and behind me, on my right and on my left. Praise you that the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him. Praise you for your protection. Praise you that nothing can separate me from your love.” Within two days, fear left me, and I haven’t battled that kind of fear since.

When we try to fight temptation head on, it’s like trying not to think of the words “Pink Elephant” for the next 10 seconds. The more we fight directly, the stronger temptation can feel. The best way to fight lust is to flee and to turn to Jesus in prayer and praise. Ask him to make you pure and holy and deliver you from temptation. Then praise him that he is working in you, keeping you and making you like himself.

Do not present. Do present. Do not present your eyes and ears to impurity or gossip. Don’t present your members to sexual sin. Don’t present your mouth to grumbling and complaining. Offer your lips to God in song. Present your hands and feet by serving someone. Give God your mouth by encouraging a brother or sister. We present our bodies to God when we do our jobs or care for our kids or cut the grass. And as we present our bodies to God it’s actually a pleasing form of worship:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)


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.


Is God Holding out on You?

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan can’t force us to sin. So he tries the next best thing – to get us to doubt God’s word and character.

He tempted Eve to doubt God’s word. God had warned Adam and Eve that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they’d die. Satan said, “You will not surely die.” He says to us, “Go ahead and sin, nothing will happen to you.” “You can sin just this once and it will be okay.” “Only one more time and you can quit tomorrow”  “God will forgive you.” “You’re saved, you won’t go to hell.” “No one will see you.”  “Everybody else does it, and nothing happens to them.”

He tempted Eve to doubt God’s character. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, “God’s holding out on you. Lying to you. He’s not good. He knows if you eat you’ll become like him and he doesn’t want that.”

God’s word is filled with promises which reflect his character. Promises to never cease doing good to us. To never leave nor forsake us. To be with us in trials, to be near us and hear us. To protect and deliver us from evil. To sustain, provide for, counsel and guide us.

But life throws things at us that seem to contradict God’s word and character. We lose a job or a loved one. We feel incredibly weak and helpless. We can’t see any possible solution to our dilemma.

“God doesn’t love you,” Satan whispers. “A loving God wouldn’t do this to you.” “If he were good he could have prevented this.” “God doesn’t answer prayer. After all, how many times have you asked and he hasn’t come through?”

We don’t have to be going through tough times for the enemy to attack God’s word and character. After all, Eve was in paradise. Satan will tempt us when things are going great. Perhaps he’ll tell us to ignore one of God’s warnings or commands to flee evil.

The devil doesn’t announce himself with a bullhorn. “Satan here, feeding you lies to destroy you!” No – he presents these thoughts as our own. They are the “fiery darts” we must put out with the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:1-23). If they aren’t directly from Satan, they arise from our own unbelief. Either way, these thoughts challenge God’s character.

Will we believe Satan’s lies or God’s word? Will we believe God’s promises or our own interpretation of things? Eve looked at the fruit, and it appeared to be good for wisdom. So she believed her senses instead of God’s word.

Cling to God’s promises, no matter what fiery darts the enemy shoots at you. Believe God’s promises even if all creation seems to contradict it. Believe God’s word over your strongest feelings. Of course to believe God’s promises, you must regularly take them in, for “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

So what are you believing about God today?


A Simple Habit to Set the Tone for Your Day

What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? Do you have thoughts like:

Oh great, another miserable cold day.
These kids are driving me crazy.
I have to meet with my boss today.
I hate my job.
This house is such a mess.
I have so much to study before my final.
I am so tired.
Need coffee! Now.

The thoughts we start the day with can set the tone for our day. We can begin the day grumbling and down. We can kick off the morning worrying or stressed. DML Jones said:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you?

Jones refers to Psalm 42:5:

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.

So Jones goes on to say we must do what the Psalmist did:

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted?

A little later he says:

And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

This is a great habit to get into. Not just when we wake up but all day long. Remind yourself of who God is and his promises to you. I heard one man say that he’d cultivated the habit of thanking God for the gift sleep as soon as he woke in the morning. So years ago, I began to do that. Then I added a couple other things to try to remember to thank God for every morning as I stagger toward the coffee pot:

Thank you for your protection during the night.
Thank you that your mercies are new every morning.
Thank you for your steadfast love that never ceases.
Thank you Jesus for saving me.

As I begin to thank God each morning as I’m waking up, it sets a tone of thankfulness for my whole day. This small habit has made a huge difference in my life. Try it as you head towards your coffeemaker. This works equally well for tea drinkers….


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.