Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge
Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA

Why We Can Trust God's Promises

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in the fields of gold

–Sting, Fields of Gold

I’ve made promises that I’ve broken. I don’t break them intentionally, sometimes I just forget. After all, I’m only human. If you base your hope on my word, sooner or later, you’ll be disappointed. I might get a flat tire on the way. I might get sick. Or die. Or get distracted. Even Sting can’t guarantee what he’ll do in the days still left.

But God never breaks a single promise. He tells us why in Numbers 23:19

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

We Can Count on God’s Promises Because of God’s Character

First of all, he’s not a man. He’s not human. He doesn’t have a fallen nature. He’s never sinned, never lied. He is the essence of righteousness and can’t lie. He is the truth and only speaks the truth.

We Can Count On God’s Promises Because God is Unchanging

Unlike us, God never changes in his person or his purposes. We may change our minds as we age, or our situation changes or we get more information. But God doesn’t decide to do something then a thousand years later realize it was a bad decision.

We Can Count On God’s Promises Because of His Infinite Wisdom

Because of his infinite wisdom, when he makes a promise, it’s the best possible promise he can make. He won’t discover later he could have made a better promise. God never needs to make course corrections. He doesn’t make it up as he goes along. He knows the end from the beginning.

If he has said it, he will do it. If he has spoken it, he will fulfill it. He’s not messing around with your life.

For these reasons, we should trust God’s promises and heed his warnings

He’s going to do what he said. Sooner or later. Even if it hasn’t happened yet. Even if you can’t see how he could possibly fulfill it. Even if your eyes, ears, mind and feelings are screaming it can’t happen.

If God has made unshakable promises, we should devour his word

I want to know all God’s promised. I want to know what I can pray for. What I can count on. What to hang my hope on when everything around looks bleak.

If we drift from reading God’s word, our faith will wane, our prayer life will wane, our joy will wane and our hope will wane.

So let’s read God’s word, grab on to his promises, then say in the face of hopelessness, God is not a man. He won’t lie or change his mind. He said it, so he’ll do it. I believe it. Thank you, my unchanging Lord!


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.


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.


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.


4 Reasons to Pursue Humility

Our culture constantly tells us to build our self-esteem and think highly of ourselves.

Yet the Bible urges us to do the opposite. To pursue humility. It’s actually a glorious pursuit. And we have plenty of reasons to be humble. Here are a few:

We can’t control anything. We like to think we are in control. We make plans, write out our lists, book our flights, mark our calendars. Yet we can’t control a single thing.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” >James 4:13–15

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know what the next hour will bring. Or the next 5 minutes for that matter. One little artery in our brain could burst. We could get a phone call with news that will alter our lives permanently. I don’t live in fear of the unknown, but it is humbling to contemplate our lack of control over our lives.

We are only here for a tiny blip of time. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” This is humbling. We are nothing great. In the blink of an eye we’ll be gone. We can’t keep our own hearts beating or maintain our breathing. We can’t keep ourselves alive. We can exercise and eat well, and that has some value, but it won’t add a single hour to our lives. God has determined the number of our days.

We are limited in our self-knowledge. “Know thyself” said a philosopher. We can know a lot about ourselves, yet there is much we don’t. We can’t fully know our own hearts and motives. We can’t fully know our own weaknesses and sins or see them as others can. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” So often my first reaction to correction is to think the other person is wrong and that I’m right—right in my own eyes. That’s why we need brothers and sisters to help us, as it says in Psalm 141:5: “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.” It is a kindness when a brother or sister points out a sin or weakness. In our pride we are tempted to “refuse it.” But a humble person receives correction because he knows he is limited in self-knowledge.

Pride has terrible consequences; humility brings blessing. Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” I’d rather have honor than destruction. So I must guard against pride, which is always lurking in my heart. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (JA 4:6). I don’t enjoy it when people oppose me, but definitely don’t want God opposing me. Really good reason to be humble. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (PR 11:2). Destruction, the opposition of God, disgrace—pride has serious consequences. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (LK 14:11).

Humility will keep us from sin. A humble person knows he has fallen in the past in many ways and is capable of any sin. A humble person knows that if God doesn’t deliver him from temptation and evil, he is helpless to stand against it. A humble person doesn’t think that he is strong enough to expose himself to sin and not be affected, so he flees temptation. A humble person knows that God is working in him, yet he isn’t perfected yet.

These are but a few of many reasons to pursue humility. May we all seek to be lowly in spirit, like the most humble man who ever walked the earth, our Savior.


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


The Secret to Loving Jesus

The more we realize how much Jesus has forgiven us, the more we will love him.

In Luke 7 a woman of ill repute shows up at a meal Jesus is attending in a Pharisee’s home. She breaks open a flask of expensive ointment, then, weeping over Jesus’ feet, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with the oil. The Pharisee, named Simon, most likely disgusted that Jesus would let this unclean woman touch him, thinks if Jesus were a prophet he’d know the kind of woman this is and have nothing to do with her. Jesus tells him:

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (41–43)

Then after mentioning Simon’s lack of courtesies—he didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, welcome him with a kiss, or anoint his head with oil—he pointed out how the woman washed his feet with her tears, kissed his feet and anointed them with oil. Then he delivers the punch line:

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (47)

Before he saved me, Jesus let me sink into a self-made miry pit of sin, selfishness, and misery. I couldn’t get out and couldn’t stop sinning. God is sovereign. He could have kept me from sinning. But he allows us to plunge deeply into sin. One of the reasons is so that when he does rescue us, we’re far more amazed and grateful than if we’d never sinned.

The same thing happens even after God saves us. He could keep us from ever sinning again. He could deliver us instantaneously from all pride and anger and self-centeredness. But he allows us to fall and struggle at times so we’ll have a fresh appreciation of his grace, forgiveness and love. And as a result we will love him all the more.*

John Newton said:

“…when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility—they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of God in Christ; Jesus becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them!”

Have you blown it repeatedly? Messed up so many times you can’t recall? If you haven’t turned to Jesus yet, do so today! He paid for every one of your sins on the cross and freely forgives all who call upon him in faith to save them. He’ll cleanse you of your every sin, and in turn you’ll love him much.

Maybe you’ve believed for years, yet you’re discouraged in your struggle with sin. Remember, Jesus paid for all your sins long before he saved you. Ask him for forgiveness and he’ll forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Not because you deserve it, but because he loves you. And you too will love much because you’ve been forgiven much.

I don’t advocate continual, morose, Eeyore-like dwelling upon our sins. But I DO advocate contemplating how much Jesus has forgiven us, because the more we realize the height and width and breadth and depth of Jesus’ forgiveness, the more we will love him.

The secret to loving God much: contemplate the immeasurable debt Jesus paid for you and how vast is his mercy and grace to you.

…..

*The reality of God in his sovereignty allowing us to fail to reveal the depth of our sin, our weakness and need and the greatness of Christ’s mercy and love is explained well by Barbara Duguid in her book Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness


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


8 Questions to Help Guard Your Heart

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

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

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

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

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

What am I believing about God?

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

Am I constantly giving thanks?

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

Am I giving into any condemnation?

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

Am I casting my cares on God?

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

How am I interpreting my life?

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

Am I being attracted to any sin or the world?

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

Do I fear God?

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

Am I humble?

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

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


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


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


7 Benefits of Going Through Hard Times

Everything God does in our lives is for our benefit, including suffering. Though they never seem pleasant at the time, hard times produce wonderful benefits in our lives. On Monday I mentioned one benefit—affliction drives us to God’s word. Here are seven more benefits of suffering:

Affliction drives us to God in prayer

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. James 5:13

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. Ps 107:6

When the sun’s shining and everything’s going our way, we don’t feel our need for God. But desperate times lead to desperate prayer. When we’re helpless to change our situation, we cry out to our Savior who delivers us from our distress.

Affliction humbles us

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 2 Cor 12:7

Afflictions remind us of how fragile we are. It keeps us lowly. Reminds us that everything we have is a gift. Pride leads to a fall, but God gives grace to the humble. Affliction positions us to receive grace.

Affliction makes us rely on Christ’s power

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor 12:9

When we realize how powerless we are, then Jesus can display his might in our lives. When we’ve exhausted all our own resources, Jesus rides in at just the right moment, like the hero in a movie who comes to rescue someone as the train is bearing down on them.

Affliction brings us the comfort of God himself

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…. 2 Cor 1:3

As well meaning as others are, there are times when no human words can comfort. But God himself comforts us when we cry out to him in our pain. The God of ALL COMFORT, the one who knows exactly what our broken hearts need, comforts us in ALL our affliction. The One who fashioned our hearts, who knows our every drop of sadness, knows the exact medicine we need to comfort us.

Affliction gives us compassion 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. 2 Cor 1:3–4

When someone else has been through the same thing, their words can really comfort us. Though your pain is horrific now, someday God will use you to bring his comfort to someone else who suffers the fury of depression or the agony of a child who rebels like yours.

Affliction produces endurance and patience

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance Rom 5:3

The only way to get patience and endurance is by being placed in situations that require it. But it will be worth it in the end, because it is by patiently enduring in faith that we’ll enter heaven.

Affliction reminds us that this world is not our home

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Heb 13:14

As many blessings as this world has, it’s not our home. Affliction weans us from this world, reminds us how transitory it is, and makes us long for heaven, for that day when we’ll see Jesus face to face and he will personally wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget none of his benefits. Especially those benefits he brings us through hard times.


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 Reasons to Take Strong Courage Today

There are times in life when we need someone to say to us, “Take Courage!” or “Take Heart!” Like the time I was about to rappel backwards over a cliff. I looked down, and it was a long, long way, and I’d never done this before. My friend who had secured my rope to a tree assured me, “Just push off backwards. You’ll be ok. You’re tied to a tree.”

When we are discouraged we need to hear someone say, “Take Courage.” Maybe you are facing an overwhelming situation. Maybe you were recently been laid off or face an uncertain future. Perhaps you are facing a serious health challenge. Maybe you’re not facing a life-and-death situation, but you’re facing several crazy kids who have the gift of frazzling. But at one time or another we all need to hear God say, “Take courage.” Here are a few reasons we can:

Because God Himself is with Us

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1.9

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” DT 31.6

We can take courage because we aren’t facing our challenges alone. God, the creator of the universe, the all-powerful One, is right here with us. He’s not far off and uninvolved. When we don’t know what to do, he does. He’s never tired, never weary, never takes a break.

Because God Has a Plan for Us

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” AC 23.11

God has a plan for each one of his children, and he will fulfill that plan. We don’t have to fulfill some destiny for ourselves; God is accomplishing his work through us. And he never fails to complete his plans.

Because Jesus Has Overcome the World

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” JN 16.33

Jesus said we WILL have tribulation in this world. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. If we look at this world only, we will lose heart. But we can “take heart” and take courage, for Jesus is greater than the world and he has already overcome it. Nothing in this world can defeat our Mighty Conqueror. And he has overcome the world for us—for those he redeemed.

Because Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (RO 8.35)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (RO 8.38–39)

No matter what we are going through, we can be assured that it hasn’t separated us from Christ’s love. And if he loves us, we can take heart that he will protect us, provide for us, guide us, and help us. Nothing in all creation can separate us from his love. Whether we lose our jobs or our homes or our health or even our minds, Jesus will hold us in his love and never let us go. So, take courage.

Because God himself will strengthen us

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” IS 12.2

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. IS 41.10

We don’t have to somehow summon up strength from within ourselves. If you don’t think you have the strength to make it through, well, you’re absolutely right. You don’t. We don’t have the strength to part the Red Sea or be cheerful in the midst of kids melting down, but God does. And he will pour his strength into us.

When you look down from the edge of the cliff, it looks like a long long fall. Take courage; you’re tied to an almighty immovable Tree. Don’t worry if you’ll have enough courage for tomorrow. God will give you all the strength you need for today. And he’s got bags and bags of grace stored up for tomorrow, a whole warehouse of grace stored up for the future.


Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.


There are No Accidents with God

Tony Evans tells this story: “Our God is sovereign. That means there’s no such thing as luck. Anything that happens to you, good or bad, must pass through His fingers first. There are no accidents with God. I like the story of the cowboy who applied for health insurance. The agent routinely asked him, ‘Have you ever had any accidents?’ The cowboy replied, ‘Well no, I’ve not had any accidents. I was bitten by a rattlesnake once, and a horse did kick me in the ribs. That laid me up for a while, but I haven’t had any accidents.’ The agent said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m confused. A rattlesnake bit you, and a horse kicked you, Weren’t those accidents?’ ‘No, they did that on purpose.”

There are no accidents with God.

God’s sovereignty is his complete and absolute rule, control, and power over all things. God has decreed all that has ever happened and ever will happen and ultimately brings about all things he has purposed.

He has total control of all things past, present and future. Nothing happens that is out of His knowledge and control. All things are either caused by Him or allowed by Him for His own purposes and through His perfect will and timing…. He is the only absolute and omnipotent ruler of the universe and is sovereign in creation, providence and redemption. (from www.GotQuestions.org)

There are no accidents with God. And he has a perfect timing for everything he does.

Remember the former things of old; for 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,’ Isaiah 46:9–10

Have you ever felt like you were in the middle of a perfect storm? How did I get here? How did this happen? Wherever we find ourselves and whatever we have to deal with we can know that God in his infinite wisdom has designed it for our good and to make us like Christ and bring him glory.

It’s no accident you are where you are. Even if you got there because of an accident. God has a perfect plan and there are no accidents with him. The family you were born into was no accident. The country you live in, the language you speak, the friends you have, your weaknesses, mistakes you have made, poor decisions—none of them are accidents to God. Failures with your spouse and children, things you wish you had done differently, painful experiences—none of them are accidents to God.

Joseph’s brothers intended to harm him, but later in life Joseph saw that it was God’s intent to bless him through the sinful actions of his brothers. They meant it for evil; God meant it for good.

Do you regret certain decisions you’ve made? Did things not turn out the way you had hoped? Do you feel stuck now? Do you wish you had done things differently? There are no accidents with God.

God in his sovereignty even overrides our sins. Maybe you really blew it. You feel like your sin has wrecked your life. Maybe you are suffering long-term consequences for a bad mistake. Remember there are no accidents with God. God is not the author of sin, and he doesn’t tempt us to sin. But even when we sin and bring consequences into our lives, God in his sovereignty can even work our failures and sins for our good.

Been bitten by a rattlesnake or kicked by a horse? Remember, there are no accidents with God.


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 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.


Does God Need Our Praise?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me (Psalm 50:14, 23)

Ever wonder why God commands us to worship him?

Is it because he is some cosmic egomaniac who feeds off our admiration? Does his love cup need constant replenishing? Does his self-esteem wane? Or does he get some perverse pleasure from making his creatures do meaningless tasks?

Apparently Israel had fallen into thinking that God somehow needed the sacrifices he required of them. They had begun thinking like their pagan neighbors who believed their gods literally ate the animals sacrificed to them. But in Psalm 50, God tells Israel he doesn’t need their offerings.

I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats? (9-13)

So why did God command them to offer animals to him? They weren’t for God’s benefit, but for Israel’s. He graciously gave them the sacrifices to temporarily cover their sins so they could draw near to him and enjoy a relationship with him. The blood of the goats and bulls was to remind them that sin had to be paid for and to point to Christ’s permanent atoning blood sacrifice that was to come.

God doesn’t need our service or money or praise:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (AC 17.24-25)

All God commands us is for our good and his glory. He doesn’t need our serving or giving or worship, since he gives us life and breath and everything. When he commands us to sing or pray or love our enemies, it is for our benefit. When God commands us to give our money, it’s not because he needs it, but that we might find him to be our treasure. And in being the source of all our good and blessing he is glorified.

So sing to Jesus, serve him and his people, offer him thanks, give to the kingdom. And not only will you honor God, but you will increase your joy and pleasure in him.
 

Read the original article by Mark Altrogge on "The Blazing Center".


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.


A Simple Way to Cultivate Joy and Thankfulness

I want to do all I can to cultivate joy and thankfulness in my life.

One of the best ways to do this is regularly recall how God saved me from slavery to sin. God instituted the Sabbath so that every week Israel could recall God’s incredible mercy and his mighty deliverance.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy… Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Just as God told Israel it was important for them to regularly recall their slavery and how he delivered them from it, it is important that we too remember we were slaves, far less able to free ourselves than Israel was to escape Pharaoh. Sin’s chains were far stronger than Pharaoh’s. He could only restrain Israel’s bodies; sin’s tentacles enwrapped our hearts, minds and wills. The Israelites detested Pharaoh; we delighted in evil. Israel wanted out; we were comfortable in sin’s shackles. But God broke the chains that bound us and set us free!

We should regularly think back on how God saved us.

By his obedience and death Jesus overthrew Satan, the Prince of darkness, a malevolent spirit whose strength makes Pharaoh look like nothing. And Jesus broke the dominion of sin over us, a power so strong no army could defeat it. He lifted the spiritual scales from our eyes no earthly surgery could remove. He created new hearts in us that beat with love and delight in him, changing our spiritual “taste” to relish his beauty and his Word. What infinite power it takes to change people from God-haters to God-lovers, from selfish rebels to humble servants.

And how did God free us from our slavery? His mighty hand and outstretched arm fell upon his own Son.

The Father crushed his beloved Son as he poured his foaming wrath upon his head. But by his mighty hand and outstretched arm, God loosed Jesus from death’s icy grip and raised him up to sit at his right hand.

When we think back on our slavery to sin and how Jesus so powerfully redeemed us, it should produce thankfulness and joy in our lives. I can still recall when I was enslaved to sin, and how Jesus drew me to himself, opened my eyes, gave me faith and saved me. And I still try to thank him regularly for how he rescued me.

Even if we have nothing else in this world, we can rejoice because we have an amazing Savior who not only saved us in the past, but continues to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father.


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.