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.

15 Things to Recall the Next Time You’re Criticized

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. (James 1:19–20)

Are  you “quick to hear”? Though this verse can be applied to many situations, I’m going to apply it to times when others criticize, point out a sin, failure, or weakness in us. We should be quick to hear when others reprove us in love (or not in love).

Why are we often slow to hear? We can be slow to hear because we are proud. Because we think we are right, or that we have the most accurate assessment of ourselves. Another reason we can be slow to hear can be because we view others’ corrections as attacks on us.

Another reason we can be slow to hear is because, even though we’re saved, we have an inadequate view of our ongoing battle with sin. Though believers are no longer “in sin” or slaves of sin, we still must put it to death on a regular basis. We need to be constantly aware of the temptation to be prideful or unteachable.

We may also be slow to listen when we have an inadequate view of how God accepts us in Christ. Insecure, we can always be looking to people for a sense of acceptance. We can interpret people’s correction as a lack of acceptance. But when we come to realize that God accepts us and is pleased with us in Christ, we can then receive criticism, for we are secure in knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and that he accepts us completely.

Sometimes we’re slow to hear because we have prejudged someone. We assume we know their motives. We assume we know why they are bringing something to us and we write it off.

So how can we become more quick to hear? Next time someone corrects, criticizes, or points out a failure or sin to you:

  • View correction as a good thing: Ps 141:5 says: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” That’s how we should view the correction of a believer—as a blessing.
  • Remember the danger of being wise in your own eyes. As Pr 26:12 says, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
  • Consider that it may be really hard for this person to bring a negative comment to you—try to make it easy for them. Consider that if they didn’t love you they might not say anything.
  • Determine that you really want to hear and understand their concern, even if it hurts, or even if in the end you don’t agree.
  • Remind yourself that God gives grace to the humble, but resists the proud. You don’t want God resisting you.
  • Remember we all have blind spots. We all have logs in our eyes at times. We can’t know ourselves perfectly and can’t see ourselves as others see us. Maybe this is something we’re blind to.
  • Don’t be quick to defend yourself. God is perfectly able to defend you.
  • Don’t be formulating your rebuff while the other person is still speaking.
  • Ask questions. Draw them out. Seek clarification. Depending on the situation, take notes.
  • Don’t write off their concern because they don’t deliver it perfectly. Even if they share in anger, the content could still be accurate.
  • Even if most of what they share is inaccurate, there’s usually at least a grain of truth worth looking for in any criticism.
  • Believe God can and will speak to you through others to sanctify you.
  • If you don’t see it, tell them you really want to and that you will definitely consider it and pray about it.
  • Thank them for bringing this to you.
  • Ask them to point it out again any time they see you do it in the future.

If we are humble and are quick to hear, God will give us grace and we’ll grow. If we’re proud and quick to reject correction, God may have to humble us. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather humble myself than have God have to do 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.


What Do You Think You Need to be Satisfied?

“Have you taken God for your happiness? Where does the desire of your heart lie? What is the source of your greatest satisfaction?… If God would give you your choice, as he did to Solomon, what would you ask? Go into the garden of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant flowers there; would these satisfy you? Go to the treasures of mammon, and to the trophies of honour; would any of these, would all of these satisfy you and make you to consider yourself happy?” — Joseph Alleine

If God is our source of happiness, then nothing can take our happiness from us. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. If we look to anything else in this world to satisfy us, eventually we will be disappointed, for nothing in this world lasts.

In Jeremiah 2:13 God says,

“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.”

God is the fountain of living waters. He alone can satisfy our deepest needs. Any other wells we attempt to dig to satisfy our thirst will leak and leave us thirsty.

Marriages get in trouble when one or both partners look for a “soul mate”—someone who can fulfill their every need. Someone who needs no maintenance on our part. Someone who will love us unconditionally and encourage us and not expect us to change. The Bible nowhere says that our wife or husband is our soul mate. Jesus is our only soul mate. He alone can fulfill our every true need. He loves us unconditionally. He does expect us to change—he transforms us into his own likeness. He alone can satisfy us. No human being can satisfy another human being.

Don’t look to your children to satisfy you. Don’t look to a career to satisfy you. Don’t think If only I could do THAT, or if only I had THAT, or if only I had a husband like THAT, then I’d be happy. Sorry but whatever THAT is, ultimately it is a broken cistern that can hold no water. Ps 16:4–6 says:

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
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.

If we run after “another god”—anything but Jesus to satisfy us—our sorrows will multiply. But when the Lord is our chosen portion, our cup, and beautiful inheritance, the lines fall to us in pleasant places.

Ask yourself today Am I finding all my contentment in God? If not, turn back to Jesus and ask him to satisfy you today with his love.


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.


Wasting away in Old-Manville

I feel like I’m about 23 years old mentally. Hopefully I have a little more wisdom than I did at age 23, but I don’t feel “old” in my mind. Then I look in the mirror in the morning. Who is that wrinkled guy gaping back at me? Yep, I’m old. I used to sing “Old man, look at my life” by Neil Young. Now “I is one.” When I turned 64 this January, I sang the Beatles song to my wife, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” She said no.

I try not to act old though. I try not to say “Consarn it!” or “Dagnabit!” too often. I try not to call teenagers “whippersnappers.” I let people know how hip and cool I am by saying things like, “You like that new song by the Mumford Sons?”

God has been kind to me. Overall my health is pretty good. But I’ve got to face it—I’m wasting away. I’m not as strong as I used to be. I lifted some heavy bags a few weeks ago, and my arm has been sore ever since. I got a stent two years ago and now take blood thinner and blood pressure meds. I’m not ready for my wife to put me into a home yet, though she threatens to do so every once in a while. But the truth is, I’m aging. I’m wasting away.

But it doesn’t depress me. Maybe if I was in constant pain or suffering a debilitating disease I’d be discouraged. And that would be understandable. But simply getting older and weaker doesn’t discourage me. My bald spot is getting bigger. My beard is getting grayer. My skin is getting looser. My muscles are sagging, despite attempting to do push-ups and crunches regularly. But I’m okay with it.

Not long ago someone said to me, “Getting old is hell.” It would be hellish if you thought this life was it. It would be depressing to waste away, lose your strength and abilities. To fear you might fall down and not be able to get up. To be confined to a wheelchair. But believers who suffer in these ways have Christ and hope in him. Those without Christ have no hope. In that case, wasting away is hellish.

Truth is, sooner or later, all of us will waste away. But though believers in Jesus decline physically just like everyone else, we have hope. Paul says in 2 Cor 4:16–18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul doesn’t deny that we age, get sick, and go downhill. But he says this doesn’t cause believers to lose heart. Why not? Because “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Every day God makes us more like Jesus. He transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). And our suffering in this life, even the suffering that comes with aging, is but momentary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that our afflictions are preparing.

The secret to not losing heart is this—it’s what we look to. If we look to the things of this life—things that are seen—to make us happy or satisfy us—things like our health, our looks, our strength—we will lose heart. Because these things are transient. Passing. Fading. Destined to go away. We can’t keep them. We can’t keep our youth. We can’t keep our looks. So, Paul says “we look not to” these things. Instead, we look to the things that are unseen—eternal things. We look to Jesus and our heavenly Father. We meditate on God’s holiness, majesty, goodness, mercy, glory, power, love, and faithfulness. We look forward to heaven. When we look to these things, we don’t lose heart. We don’t deny that our outer self is wasting away. But we aren’t depressed when it happens either because we have hope.

Yes, I’m wasting away outwardly. But I see Jesus at work in me day by day. So, I don’t lose heart. I may lose my hearing, but I don’t lose heart. I lose my hair, but I don’t lose hope. Praise God for giving us an eternal weight of glory to look forward to....


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.


God Prepares Our Works, Motivates Us, Then Rewards Us. What’s Up with That?

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Php 2:12–13

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

God is the ultimate “worker,” the great worker of “good works.” He deals bountifully with us (Ps 119:17); he is good and does good (68). In fact, he rejoices to do good to his people (Je 32:41), and he purposes to bring good to his own (Zech 8:15).

God did the ultimate good work when he sent his son Jesus to redeem us. And Peter preached to Cornelius’ household that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” (Ac 10:38).

By contrast, we are not good in and of ourselves—“no one does good, not even one” (Ro 3:12). But when he saves us, God makes us new creations. The great worker of good makes us his workmanship, and creates us in Christ Jesus, the one who went about doing good. God creates us for good works.

Not only that, but he prepared our good works beforehand, in eternity past, long before he created the universe. All we need to do is walk in them.

God not only creates us in Christ for good works, prepares the very works we will walk in, but gives us the desire to do those works. He works in us both to will and work for his good pleasure. We who once lived only for ourselves, who worked only evil, and loathed the light, now long to please our heavenly Father, to act like him and his Son. God not only gives us the will but he supplies the strength and energy to do good.

But wait, there’s more. The great Giver gives us gifts to use in the service of others. Mercy, administration, helps, giving, faith, prophecy, teaching, sewing, cooking, artistic gifts and skills in every craft (see Exodus 35), musical and medical skills—every kind of gift. God not only gives us the works to walk in, but the talents to execute them.

But God doesn’t stop there. He rewards us for using the gifts and doing the works he gave us.

What kind of God is this? A wonderful God. A good God. A lavish, generous, amazing, creative, surprising, loving God. It would be enough if he only saved us. But he transforms us, then rewards us. Unbelievable.

And God won’t forget to reward us. He sees every work, no matter how “insignificant” in our eyes, and records it for the last day. Not a single cup of water given to a disciple will go unrewarded. Not a single visit to a sick person, a piece of bread given a hungry one; not a tiny act of kindness done to a child—none will be missed or forgotten.

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do (Heb 6:10).

Last night I joined some members of our church who conduct a monthly service in a personal care facility. Patients were wheeled in and handed large print hymn books. The folks from our church went around cheerfully greeting the patients, shaking their hands, making small talk. Then they led the service, playing and singing some good old hymns, “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.” Then one of my friends gave a short talk about the love of God from Romans 8. A couple more hymns, then our folks helped wheel patients back to their rooms. These members of our church have been serving the residents of the home every month for years. Last night I thought what a reward they are going to in heaven. Month after month, singing “The Old Rugged Cross” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” Loving these people who can’t give much back. Year after year of doing good to the weak. I thought, I want to be there applauding them when Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Let’s thank God for his incredible goodness in giving us works to walk in, the will, strength and gifts to do them, and then rewarding us. What an incredible God we serve!


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 Do You Want People to Say at Your Funeral?

Lately I’ve been asking myself a question.

I’ve recently done two funerals. At both funerals family members and friends shared memories of their loved ones who had died. They shared a few funny stories about each one. But what they talked about most was the acts of kindness or love they did. About their thoughtfulness and how they served others. About what a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother the woman was. About what a great husband, dad, and grandpa the man was. About how each of them loved the Lord and loved people.

There was no extolling their great accomplishments or how much money they made. Nothing about awards or recognition. No list of buildings they’d built or inventions they’d patented or great discoveries they’d made.

It’s had me thinking about a question someone said we should ask ourselves: What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

What will your children say? What will your wife say? Will people say things like, “She was a great Mom.” “He was a wonderful husband—he really took good care of his wife in her last years.” “She was the most humble woman I know.” “He was the best brother in the world. He always put others first.” “My mom always had time to listen to us.” “Dad did so much with us when we were kids.” “She was my best friend.” “He was always serving someone.” “She never thought of herself.”

Or will your loved ones say things like this: “I never really knew my Dad because he was always at work.” “Mom didn’t seem to have much time for us as kids.” “Dad always seemed disappointed in me.” “Mom and I didn’t talk that much.” “Dad seemed like he was angry with us all the time.”

If you look at all these statements, both good and bad, they all have to do with relationships and character. Relationships: she was a loving mother. Dad always had time for us. My mom was my best friend. And character: she was the most humble woman I know. Every week he’d read to a blind man. He was always joyful.

Relationships and character. That’s what’s going to matter in the end. I once heard this statement: Success in any other area of life cannot make up for failure at home. This is not to condemn anyone—I’ve failed many times as a husband and dad. But like the question I’m asking today this statement helps me focus. What if I’m the most “successful” man in the world? What if I make all kinds of money or create the next YouTube, yet neglect my wife and kids? Will I really be successful? What do I want people to say at my funeral?

An even more important question: what will God say when you die? Will he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master”? To hear those words would mean more than almost any others.

What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? This question helps us focus on what’s really important. It reminds us of what really matters in the end.

We can gain the world and lose our soul. We can go after riches and miss out on relationships. We can pursue success at the expense of character. So I’m grateful for the question funerals make me ask.


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


Why We Should Keep Waiting For God

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

The ESV Study Bible comments on this passage:

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

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

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

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


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


The Joy of Fear

We tend to think of fear as bad thing.

As something to be avoided. We don’t want to live in fear. And when it comes to the fear of the Lord, we tend to think of it in negative terms as well. We tend to think of the fear of the Lord as fear that he will punish us for sin. A dread that if we get out of line he’ll backhand us or hurl a lightning bolt at us. But the fear of the Lord is a wonderful, amazing, positive, desirable blessing that God gives us to produce joy and gladness in our lives.

The fear of the Lord is to delight in God’s awesomeness. To marvel at his majestic power and glory. To contemplate his infinite might and breathtaking holiness. To fear God is to love him and take great pleasure in obeying and serving him. When we contemplate the beauty of the Lord and taste and see his goodness, we will hate sin and filth and impurity and anything else that robs us of our delight and joy in God.

Here are a few verses to contemplate:

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Ps 33:8

To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of him. To marvel and be amazed at his glory and power.

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! Ps 112:1

The Psalmist tells us that fearing the Lord isn’t so much a fear of punishment for breaking God’s commands; rather it is positively delighting in God’s commandments.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Pr 14.27

Fearing God brings life, joy, satisfaction, contentment. It is a fountain of life–a constant source of refreshing and fulfillment. Because we delight in and stand in awe of God, we turn away from sin, which brings misery and death.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” Dt 10:12

God tells us that to fear him is in reality to love him and serve him wholeheartedly.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Ps 19.9

The fear of the Lord is always positive. It is clean. It endures forever. It has to do with loving God’s true and righteous laws.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

The fear of the Lord has infinitely more to do with loving God than fearing his punishment. We are not to fear punishment from God, because he punished Christ in our place. Rather, because of all God did for us through his Son, we should love God and delight in him with all our hearts.

So fear God today. Love him. Delight in his awesome, infinite power. Contemplate his sovereign rule over all the angels, over every demon, over every nation. Marvel at God’s providence and wisdom in directing all things from galaxies to lightning bolts. Praise him for his steadfast love and his mercies that never cease. As you drink from the Fountain of Delights, you’ll hate the putrid waters of sin. You’ll hate the snares of death that rob you of joy and satisfaction in the infinite beauty of the Beautiful One.


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


12 Things to Thank God for in the Midst of Affliction

One of the most important things we must do when we suffer is to give thanks. I don’t say this lightly and I know many believers who have endured unimaginable pain and tragedy.  Giving thanks in the midst of agony and affliction is certainly not easy to do. 

Yet Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” and 1 Thess 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Giving thanks helps us focus on God in our affliction, steers us away from complaining, strengthens our faith, and brings glory to Jesus.

There are many things we can give thanks for when we suffer, but here are 12 that I try to remember:

1) That God is sovereign and in complete control of the intensity and the duration of your affliction.

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose’ Is 46:9-10

2) That God’s love and mercies never cease

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22-23

3) That Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.

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.” Heb 13:5

4) That God is with you in your affliction

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. Is 43:2

5) That God hears your every prayer

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry. Ps 34:15

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles. Ps 34:17

6) That God is using this affliction to make you like Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. Romans 8:28–29

7) That this affliction is momentary and light compared to the eternal reward it is producing

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2 Cor 4:17

8) That Jesus is your sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for you constantly

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25

9) That God is near you in your pain

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

10) That Jesus is your refuge, strength, and strong tower you can run to.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1, ESV

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Pr 18:10

11) That God has saved you, washed away your sins, and adopted you as his own child.

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Rom 4:7

12) That someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from your eyes and you will see his glorious face.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Rev 21:4


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 Much Power Does Satan Really Have?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that (Job) has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12

Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Jobs’ suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin. But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith.  We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.

Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful. “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”

When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits). In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self-pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon. I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.

Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.

He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership. We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.

When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job. God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job. Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.

Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite. Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.

If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being. A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs. Above dogs are monkeys, then humans, and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation. The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.

Satan is a tool of God, and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).

So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.


A Good Dose of Self-Forgetfulness

Pride can act humble.

I can act as humble as Moses (“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Wait a minute, didn’t Moses write Numbers? What’s up with that? Anyway, I can act meek as Moses while simultaneously being proud of how humble I am.

Don’t get me wrong – I really do want to be humble. But true humility isn’t being preoccupied with whether you’re humble or not. Did you ever get preoccupied with humility and pride? Someone commends you for your humility and you’re immediately tempted to be proud about it. Here’s what we need – a good dose of self-forgetfulness.

As Tim Keller says in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

If we were to meet a truly humble person, (C.S.) Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. 

Genius!

How do we think of ourselves less? By being interested in others. “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.”

This is gospel-humility – counting others more significant than ourselves. Being genuinely interested in and concerned for others. A good dose of self-forgetfulness.

Paul says we should “put on” compassion and love for our brothers and sisters. I’m not naturally emotional or compassionate. I’ve had to learn to put on compassion. All my life I looked to my own interests, but when Jesus saved me I had to learn to start looking to the interests of others.

To put on compassion means we try to enter into what someone is going through, try to imagine what it would be like to suffer what they’re suffering. We can’t fully know another’s pain, but we can do our best to empathize.

But self-forgetfulness is more than sympathizing. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice. Celebrating God’s work in someone’s life. Being glad when others are blessed. This is true humility.

And when we sincerely sympathize or celebrate with others we forget ourselves. And we’re truly humble.

So ask Jesus to help you think of yourself less and more of others today. Now, enough about you, what do you think about me?


The One Question That Creates Humility and Thankfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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


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