Mark Altrogge


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

Tempted to Worry? Call These 4 Words to Mind

I don’t like to fly.

When I do, I almost always wind up thinking of worst-case scenarios. What if I’m in the bathroom and the tail section breaks off? What would it feel like to be launched into the atmosphere? Once a pilot sat across the aisle from me. He was in uniform and riding to his home base or wherever his next flight was. I asked him what would happen if say, a wing broke off, and I was ejected into the atmosphere at 30,000 feet. Would I pass out from the lack of oxygen? Would I suddenly wake up 30 feet above the ground and for the last 2 seconds of my life experience intense terror before the incredible pain of impact? Imagination is a gift from God, but on planes my imagination tends to go into overdrive.

We can fear all kinds of things if we let ourselves. What if I never get married? What if I can’t find a job? What if my child gets a serious disease? What if my teenager continues to rebel? How will I make it when I retire?

After the Exodus, God provided manna for his people. He told them to gather each day’s amount and not store up any extra. They weren’t to worry about tomorrow’s manna, or next week’s manna, only that day’s.

In his book Running Scared, Ed Welch points out that for Christians, manna is a picture of grace. Like manna, God provides grace for each day. We don’t know what challenges we’ll face in 2 weeks or 2 years, but we know that whatever we encounter, there will be grace. We can’t get tomorrow’s grace ahead of time, but when we need it, God will provide.

Corrie Ten Boom used to say that when she was a child, her father would take her on train trips. While waiting, she’d ask her father for her ticket, but he’d say, “I’ll give you your ticket just before we get on.” And each time, when the train would arrive, he’d hand her her ticket just before boarding. Corrie’s point was that God gives us grace just when we need it. He gives us each day’s manna.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (MT 6.25-34)

As Ed Welch says, “There will be grace.” If God provided manna each day for Israel, he will provide grace each day for us. If God provides for the birds of the air, he will provide for us. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Remember these 4 words: “There will be grace.”

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


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.


What Does Your Worship Say about God?

If an outsider came into your Sunday meeting and observed you worshiping, what would he conclude you think about God? 

Does your expression of worship say how great and glorious, delightful and exciting you think God is? Does your worship say you’ve found God to be faithful and good, loving and satisfying? Would an outsider conclude you believe God to be real and present?

Or does your worship say you find God about as exciting as an exam on protein chains (maybe you bio majors would get excited about this – I wouldn’t). Do you sing with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just been asked to shovel 2 tons of manure? Does your worship say you believe God is distant and uncaring?

What does our worship say about what God did for us? Do we sing like those who have been redeemed eternally from the wrath of God? Like those who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places? Like those who are grateful to have every sin wiped away? Do we rejoice like those who have the king of the universe living inside them?

We should worship God expressively, not for a show or to impress others, but as a way of saying to him how much we love him. That we consider him to be infinitely great and glorious and majestic. That we consider him to be praiseworthy.

Worship is primarily an issue of the heart. So someone could worship God wholeheartedly and not show it on the outside. But I like what I once heard John Piper say – worship begins in the heart but should not stay there. It should be expressed.

Our glad hearts should overflow with thanks for all God did for us in Christ. Hey, Jesus DIED for us. He was tortured, spit on, mocked, pierced, so that we could enjoy God for ever and ever. Essentially, Jesus went to hell so that we don’t have to. Isn’t that worth getting excited about?

We should worship like rich people! Because we are. We’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ! We should sing with more enthusiasm than if we just found out we won the lottery.

We should sing like those who know God is working all things for good in our lives. Like those who are being transformed into the very image of Christ. Like those who will worship around the throne for eternity?

God has designed us to express delight in things excellent and beautiful. We gush when we see a glorious sunset. We clap and shout at Coldplay concerts and Steeler games (well, maybe not if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan). We give standing ovations for outstanding accomplishments. Our cheers show what we think of that diving catch or that guitar solo.

Again, our worship isn’t some kind of performance we put on for others. Our worship is for God. But it says something about what we think about him.

This Sunday let’s show God what we think of him and sing the roofs off our church buildings.


7 Things I Would Do Differently if I were Raising My Children Again

My children are adults now and several have children of their own. We had lots of fun as a family, and I have lots of great memories of raising our kids. But in retrospect, I think I would have done a number of things differently. So, I share them in hopes that younger parents might benefit and not make some of the mistakes I did. Some things I would do differently:

I wouldn’t try to shelter them from every possible influence of the world.

Parents should try to be careful as to what their children are exposed to, but we can be overly protective. We homeschooled, kept our kids from playing public school sports, and didn’t let them go trick-or-treating. And we didn’t let our kids watch Sesame Street because Oscar the Grouch had a bad attitude.

Eventually, I came to realize you can put your children in a bubble and it still won’t guarantee that sin won’t sprout in their hearts. My wife and I thought that if we did all these things, it would guarantee our children would automatically follow the Lord. Now I’d consider each individual child as to the best kind of schooling for them. There’s no best way. The Bible just commands fathers to bring up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.

I would try not to express disappointment or shock when they confessed sin to me.

Though I tried to not to act surprised when one of my kids confessed a sin, there were times I dropped my head or got a pained expression on my face, which certainly didn’t make them want to open up to me.

I wouldn’t emphasize manners as much.

It’s good for kids to learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but at so many of our meal times I bugged my kids about their manners. I justified it by saying, “Someday you may be invited to the White House, and you’ll be embarrassed if you have bad manners while you’re eating with the president.”

I would try to encourage them more.

Although I did try to encourage them, I believe that proportionally I corrected them more. Now I would seek to reverse that.

I would try to draw them out more as teenagers.

There were times when our kids were going through really painful experiences as teens, and I was too quick to dole out spiritual advice rather than empathize and try to understand what they were going through.

I would try not to expect our kids to change their attitudes immediately.

Even now, I’m not always quick to have a good attitude, yet I often expected my kids to “snap to” and change their attitude on a dime. Wouldn’t do that now (I hope).

Along these lines, I also wouldn’t look for fruit too soon. I was looking for change and maturity way too soon. Adult believers are slow to change. Sometimes it takes many years to see the fruit of the Spirit in adults, let alone in our children.

This doesn’t have to do with my parenting, but I would also not judge other parents.

At times if another parent was having struggles with their child I would think they must be doing something wrong. Later on, I’d find myself having struggles with one of my children.


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 Our Unity is So Important and Beautiful to God

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." JN 17.20-21

The night before Jesus died he prayed that his disciples would be one. Why was the unity of his followers so on his heart?

In college I majored in painting and still enjoy painting. I love color. I have around 20 tubes of different colored oil paints. I like Pthalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ocher. I like them by themselves but they’re 100 times more beautiful when mixed together and juxtaposed next to each other in a thousand surprising combinations. What makes a piece of art beautiful is the harmonies and relationships of the shapes and colors. A canvas that is all one color is boring.

In “Eyes Wide open: Enjoying God in Everything” author Steve DeWitt says that the amazing diversity in unity that we see in the creation points us to God. A stunning sunset, the glories of the Grand Canyon, the beauty of sunlight in a forest – the thousands of combinations of color and light and shape in nature, a symphony orchestra or a sports team working harmoniously – all the variations of diversity and harmony we see in the world – point us to God. Especially when we enjoy harmonious relationships.

“We enjoy holidays (the coming together of family), weddings and anniversaries (celebrations of the union of marriage), and Fourth of July parades (the unity of community and nation). Coming together feels great! Relational unity is humanity at its supreme and highest ideal. Have you ever wondered why the greatest memories of our lives or not things we bought or sites we saw or foods we ate? Think about your greatest memories. They probably have something to do with times of closeness with a parent, a child, a spouse, or a friend. Relational unity is beautiful because all the experiential harmonies of this world whisper of the wondrous beauty of the Godhead’s relational threeness and oneness.” – Steve DeWitt

Relational unity is beautiful because all the experiential harmonies of this world whisper of the wondrous beauty of the Godhead’s relational threeness and oneness.”

All the relational diversity and harmony we see on earth – in nature, music, sports, art, in family celebrations– points us to the love and harmony of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one God.

That’s why it is so important for us to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4.3). That’s why we should seek to be reconciled to one another and work out our differences as quickly as possible. To forgive one another and bear with one another. Because our unity in diversity in our families and churches reflects and points to God.

Do you have strained relationships with fellow believers? What can you do to promote love and unity in that relationship? Are you unreconciled with anyone? What can you do to seek reconciliation?

I know that relationships even among Christians can be messy. We often sin against one another and hurt each other. We have misunderstandings and offenses. But as much as it is up to us we should forgive, love and pursue the unity of the Spirit with every brother and sister.

Remember, when we love one another it is a reflection of the beautiful love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for one another and for us. O Lord God, grant us unity, love and harmony in our families and churches!


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.


Obeying God's Strange Commands Yields Amazing Results

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. IS 55.8

God calls us to trust and obey him, even when his ways don’t make sense to us or the world around us. The fall of Jericho illustrates that God’s strange ways always result in victory when we obey him in faith. Joshua chapter 6 begins with Israel facing a hopeless situation:

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. (1)

Jericho is locked up tight. There’s no way Israel can conquer this city. It’s massive. Israel has no catapults, no battering ram. They don’t even have any horses. They hadn’t fought a single battle and no experience in war. How are they going to take this city? God tells them how he is going to do it. And his ways are surprising. God’s ways are not our ways.

And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” (2-5)

Imagine Joshua repeating this back to the Lord: “So we’re to have armed men, then 7 priests blowing 7 horns in front of the ark of the covenant, then a rear guard, then all the people, and march around the city with the priests blowing the horns, and all the people are totally silent. We walk around the city 1 time each day for 6 days and on the 7th day we do this 7 times then we give a shout and the wall will fall down. And we go up and take the city. Right.”

God’s ways aren’t our ways. They don’t always make sense to us. What do you mean I’m supposed to love my enemies and bless those who curse me and do good to those who abuse me? What do you mean I’m supposed to keep myself sexually pure before marriage? What do you mean I’m supposed to forgive people who sin against me? What do you mean I’m supposed to humble myself and lay down my life and serve others? What do you mean I’m not supposed to be anxious about tomorrow when I can’t see where the money’s going to come from? God’s ways are not our ways. He calls us to TRUST AND OBEY.

So Israel trusted God and obeyed. They walked in silence carrying the ark of the covenant around the city, blowing trumpets, once a day for 6 days, then 7 times on the 7th day. Can you imagine how foolish this looked to the people of Jericho? The priests were blowing “useless” trumpets. The soldiers on the wall were probably laughing and mocking: “Look, a marching band. Ooooh how scary! Oh, those trumpets are so terrifying! Wow, I think I felt a vibration. Hey, do you guys know anything by Louis Armstrong? How about Winton Marsalis? Hey, marching band, can you guys do the theme from Star Wars?”

Well, you know the story. On the 7th day after marching around the city 7 times, the Israelites gave a shout – another “useless” thing in man’s eyes – and the walls came a-tumblin’ down.

God’s ways are not our ways. They often don’t make sense to our minds. They run counter to the world’s way of doing things. But when we obey God in faith he will give us spiritual victory and success. 


10 Ways to Overcome Spiritual Weariness

Being a disciple of Jesus is hard. He said we must daily take up our cross and die to ourselves. He calls us to serve, love, and look to the interest of others. Following Jesus yields immeasurable joy, but we can also grow weary from day to day. Weary in parenting, weary in serving, weary in trials and affliction. When we’re weary we can find fresh strength, joy and motivation in Christ. Here are 10 ways to do that:

Come to Jesus for rest

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” MT 11.28-30

Confess your weariness to the Lord

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. PS 6.6

Ask Jesus to restore and revive you

The LORD is my shepherd… He restores my soul. PS 23.1, 3

Remind yourself that Jesus won’t forget your labors for him

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

Ask Jesus for joy

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. JN 16.24

Ask Jesus for strength

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; IS 40.28-30

Ask Jesus for his own affection for people

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus PHP 1.8

Remind yourself that your work for the Lord is not in vain

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 CO 15.58

Remind yourself that someday you’ll reap rewards

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. GA 6.9

Remind yourself of God’s future commendation

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ MT 25.23


4 Ways to Live in a World That’s Crumbling

Do you ever feel like the world is cracking and beginning to crumble? ISIS, Ebola, changing sexual morals, disintegrating families, escalating crime, drugs, suicides…. I don’t need to elaborate. The world is shaking. It’s passing away. But believers in Jesus need not fear or be depressed, for God has given us an unshakeable kingdom.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (>Heb 12.28–29 NIV)

Live for the unshakeable kingdom

This world and everything in it is going to pass away. But we are receiving a kingdom that is permanent. It will last forever. It can’t be destroyed, let alone shaken. This means that everything we do for that kingdom will last. All we invest in that kingdom is secure. It won’t devalue; no one can steal it; it’s there and it will be there when we get to heaven. Every act of kindness we do in the name of Jesus, every glass of water we give a thirsty person, every dollar we give to the church or the poor, every meal we make for a family in need, every time we babysit for a friend—safe. Permanent. Every prayer we offer, every song we sing, every time we praise Jesus, every act of obedience—stored away in the unshakeable kingdom. In light of the unshakeable kingdom, why would we live for this world? Why would we give ourselves to sin and selfishness? Why would we spend all our time pursuing things that are fading, aging, crumbling and passing away?

Be thankful

The author of Hebrews says that since we are receiving a permanent kingdom “let us be thankful.” How can we not be thankful that Jesus rescued us from lives of futility and gave us eternal life in his kingdom? How can we not be thankful for an unimaginable glorious future? Let’s make thankfulness one of the main habits in our lives. Yes, we should thank God for all our material blessings, but let us thank him for the incredible blessings of the kingdom—the righteousness of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, God’s love in Christ, God’s protection from evil, his strength to conquer sin… innumerable spiritual blessings.

Ask God for grace

The phrase “let us be thankful” is often translated from the Greek “let us have grace.” Hebrews 4 tells us that in our weakness when we face temptations we should boldly approach the throne of grace for “grace to help in time of need.” Jesus is waiting to give us his mighty power to overcome temptation.

Have a healthy fear

Since we are receiving an unshakeable kingdom, we should “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” This isn’t just talking about our “corporate worship” when we gather with the church to sing and celebrate, but our lives. We are to offer God holy lives. We should live “with reverence and awe” or with a healthy fear of the Lord. We don’t want to take God’s holiness and majesty for granted. We don’t want to presume that we can sin and God won’t discipline us. We don’t want to give in to sin.  Remember “God is a consuming fire.” The author of Hebrews is referring to DT 4:23–24:

Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

God warned Israel, that though they were his chosen people and he would bring them into the promised land, they must be careful not to fall into idolatry, because he would punish them. God doesn’t take sin lightly. Nadab and Abihu didn’t fear God, and offered different incense than God had commanded:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (LV 10:1–2)

This doesn’t say that Nadab and Abihu went to hell. It says that fire came out from the Lord and consumed them. They ruined their lives in this world by their disobedience. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, who it would appear were believers, lied to Peter about money and God struck them down. The result was that “great fear came upon the whole church” (v. 11). Obviously, God doesn’t always consume us when we sin. He is patient, long-suffering, and merciful. But we shouldn’t presume on that mercy. A healthy fear of the Lord will help us live holy lives that are pleasing worship to God.

We who have believed in Jesus are receiving an unshakeable kingdom. Let us be practice being thankful, let us seek his grace to overcome sin, and let us cultivate a healthy fear of God. That’s a recipe for joy!


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 Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

Winter is coming. And I hate shoveling snow. But I’ve found a way to make it more bearable.

When I’m shoveling and I’m tempted to grumble I tell myself, “I’ll be glad for this snow next August when I’m eating sweet bread and butter corn on the cob.” The effects of snow aren’t immediately observable. But over the months as it lies on the ground and soaks into the earth, it has a hidden work and power. God compares the hidden work and power of his word to that of rain and snow in Isaiah 55:10–11:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in peoples’ hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions. If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts. When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted, and squirmy. I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids. Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or, “Oh, yeah, I believe in Jesus. I go to church.” They don’t cry out, “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost. And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.

But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.

In Isaiah 55 God compares his word to the rain and snow that fall from the sky. When they soak into the earth, we don’t see anything happening. We can’t see the hidden work and power of water on the seeds buried in the earth. Yet the rain and snow make the earth “bring forth and sprout” and produce a harvest months later. That’s how it is with God’s word. He sends it forth with a purpose and it never fails to accomplish that purpose. But we don’t see it right away. Snow in January produces corn in August. God’s word “SHALL succeed.”

Snow in January produces corn in August

So, pastor, keep on preaching God’s word, even if it seems like nothing’s happening in your church. Mom, Dad, keep on teaching children about Jesus, even if they’re fidgety and punching each other while you do. Believer, keep sharing the good news of Jesus with people, even if no one gets saved when you do. Keep reading God’s word and meditating on it, even when you feel dry and lifeless.

God’s word won’t return to him void. You might not see the results, but God will. And God will be successful. His word never fails.


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.


Someday It Will be Worth It

Life is really hard isn’t it? If you don’t think so, give it a little time.

Paul and Barnabas encouraged the saints to continue in the faith,“saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (AC 14:22). In 1 Peter 1:6 Peter says believers are “grieved by various trials.” And James tells us: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (1:2). And Peter tells us not to be surprised when we suffer:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 PE 4:12).

I recently said to someone, “Well, the good news is, when this trial is over there will be another one.”

No, I’m not a pessimist. I’m not an Eeyore. It’s just that I have found God’s word to be true—God takes us through flames and floods, disappointments and disasters. We live in a fallen world. Our lives are filled with blessings and peppered with pain. Sometimes heavily peppered. Unbelievably peppered. And God works a ton of good in us through our suffering—he produces humility, perseverance, compassion, and Christlike character in us. He makes us depend on him, weans us from the love of this world and makes us long for heaven.

But the best thing God does in our afflictions now lies ahead—they prepare “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” in heaven (2 CO 4.17). This is how Jesus gives me hope and gets me through. It’s knowing that someday in heaven I’ll be blown away comparing the weight of glory to the “peewee” afflictions I went through. We go through big time pain here. Some serious sadness, sickness, persecution, and hurt. But when we get to heaven we’ll have mountainous rewards. We’ll say, “What in the world is this mountain of glory for?” And the Lord will say, “That’s for the years you were sick.” And we’ll say, “What??? But that was NOTHING compared to THIS! This… this… this mountain of glory makes my suffering look like a grain of sand.”

Someday it will be worth it. Peter tells us:

For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 PE 2.6

If we believe in Jesus, and continue to trust him, we won’t be “put to shame.” No one in heaven will say, “Well, this is rather disappointing. Is this all I get for what I went through?” The sight of Jesus’ face alone will compensate more than a million times for every pain and heartbreak we go through now.

You won’t be disappointed. Keep believing in Jesus. Keep hoping in him. Keep clinging to him and abiding in him. Don’t give up, no matter how bad the pain gets. You won’t be put to shame. Keep rejoicing and giving thanks in all things. You can’t imagine your reward and the joys that await you.


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


How to Help a Christian Who is Trapped in Sin

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Ever been caught in a sin? The word translated “caught” in Galatians 6:1 means “overtaken.” It has the meaning of becoming ensnared. Overpowered. Caught in a trap.

Not only unbelievers, but believers can get tripped up by sin. Ensnared. Unable to break out easily.

How should we react?

How should we treat someone who is overtaken by a sin? What if someone comes to you and confesses they’re ensnared in pornography? Or they’ve been giving into anger or overeating. How should we react to them?

Unfortunately, believers don’t always react with much gentleness. When a teen confesses a sin, parents say things like, “How could you do such a thing?” or “What were you thinking?” Sadly, there were times when my children confessed sin to me that I expressed my disappointment by dropping my head or displaying a pained look.

God’s word says that if anyone is caught in ANY transgression we should restore them with gentleness. ANY transgression—believers fall hard at times. Believers get ensnared in bad things. Sin is deceptive and very often believers fall prey to its wiles. Although it’s disappointing and sad and at times shocking when a fellow believer confesses falling into a serious sin, we must be careful in the way we react to them.

Our goal: restore them to Christ

Our first goal should be to RESTORE them to Christ—“you who are spiritual should restore him.” We should point them to Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. To remind them that he paid for every single one of our sins on the cross. To assure them that Jesus is a sympathetic and merciful high priest who waits on his throne of grace to show them mercy and give them help in time of need.

Even if they are unrepentant our goal should be to rescue and restore them to Christ. Church discipline as described in Matthew 18 is not punishment, but a rescue operation that seeks to win straying sheep back to the Lord.

Gentleness, not exasperation

And as we seek to restore someone we should do it “in a spirit of gentleness,” not exasperation—“I can’t believe you did that again!” There’s no place for anger or disgust. Sin has painful consequences, and sinners are often hurting. Hurting people need to be handled with gentleness.

This doesn’t mean we can’t bring correction, especially if they aren’t listening or repenting. But we should always treat others as we would like to be treated.

And one of the greatest motivators for gentleness is to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We should never judge anyone caught in a sin, because next time it might be us. We could be tempted and fall into the same sin, or a different one, and find ourselves needing to be restored. Never think, “How could this person do this?” or “I would never do that!” It’s always best to think, “I’m a sinner, too. I could fall, too. Our roles might be reversed next time.”

I haven’t always done these things well. I haven’t always been gentle. I have been arrogant in my heart. But I want to be more like Jesus who didn’t wait for us to have our acts together before he had compassion on us. And I want to fear God, knowing that I can be tempted and fall just like anyone else.


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


5 Benefits of Having a Challenging Teen

What? Are you serious? What good can it possibly be to have a difficult child? Or a teen who struggles with sin? Or a child who rebels against you?

God causes all things—even a teenager’s sin—to work together for our good. Here are 5 ways:

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in dependence on God

Challenges with our children are as much (or more) about us than about them. Sometimes we discover that we are depending more upon ourselves than the Lord. So often we think that if we just do all the right things—have family devotions, discipline our children, love them, keep them from bad influences, educate them in a certain way—then they will automatically be saved and follow the Lord.

But doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God—to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in humility

When we have a child or two who do well, we can start to think that we are responsible for how well they are doing. Yes, we think, it is my parenting that did this. My hard work paid off. A difficult teen ends all that. We become aware of doing many things that failed. We become aware of making many mistakes and that the reason any of our other children are doing well is God’s grace. A difficult child makes us feel weak. It’s humbling to ask others for prayer and counsel. It’s humbling for others to find out we don’t have the ideal Leave It to Beaver family.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in mercy and sympathy toward others

Years ago in my arrogance, when others had challenges with their children, I would think they must be doing something wrong. It was somehow their fault. In my arrogance I had little mercy or compassion for others. Having a difficult teen changes all that. When you have been through challenges, struggles, and disappointments with one or more of your children, you become very merciful and sympathetic to others in their struggles. You know how much you appreciate the sympathy of others, so you extend it to others. You know how much you need mercy so you become merciful to others.

Having a challenging teen causes us to grow in patience and perseverance

Unfortunately, the only way to gain patience is to be put into a situation that requires it. Jesus usually works in our children little by little, often imperceptibly, over years, as he does in us. Sometimes we must keep praying for our children for years and years—even as they are adults. All we can do is plant the seed of the gospel, then we must water it with our prayers and trust God to cause the seed to grow in his own timing. This takes patience.

Think of how patient and long-suffering God has been with you. You aren’t always quick to change are you?

Having a challenging teen helps us to grow in love

Jesus told us to love our enemies expecting nothing in return. Of course, our kids aren’t our enemies. But we must love them, bless them, speak kindly to them, bear with them, and do good to them, even when they don’t respond. God loved us before we loved him, and he calls us to do the same. We rejected Jesus again and again, yet he loved us and came for us and died on the cross for us. Even now, millions and millions reject Jesus every moment of every day, yet he continues to love them. Whatever disrespect we receive from our children in return for our love is but an infinitesimal taste of what Jesus experiences every day from mankind.

So we must grow in love. We must seek the grace of Jesus to love as he loved, unselfishly, expecting nothing in return.

Our children’s struggles are as much about us as they are about them. So praise God and thank him, that as difficult as things are, he is at work both in you and your teen. Don’t give up, even if you see little change or fruit. God isn’t done working yet. The story isn’t over yet. God is not only working in your child, he’s working in you.


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


When My Hair Looks Like a Van Gogh Sunflower

A funny thing happened on the way to work last week.

I’m in a hurry to get out of the house so I fly through my regimen of shaving, showering, brushing my teeth. I rub mousse into my hair, get dressed, and run downstairs. Grab a package to mail, then shoot out the door. On the way to work I stop by the UPS store, where I regularly mail packages, say hi to the young lady who always works there, and hand her my package. She says “hi” as usual, takes my package, runs it up. I pay her, then head toward the door.

When I get to the front door, I see my reflection in the glass, and my jaw drops. “What in the world?” I gasp. My hair is sticking out in 50 different directions. I look like a van Gogh sunflower. Like I sky-dived without a helmet then sprayed my hair. Like Medusa – you know, the mythological lady who had snakes for hair.

I feel my hair. It’s stiff and dry. It won’t flatten. In my haste to get out of the house quickly, I had moussed it but forgotten to comb it. (Sign of Senility #136).

When I see myself I turn and ask the girl who took my package (there was no one else in the store), “Why didn’t you say something about my hair?” She says, “I thought you might be going for something new.” Like the deranged pastor look. Like the I-just-escaped-from-the-institution look. Like I was on my way to audition for the role of a zombie in World War Z look.

So I drive home, rewet my hair, comb it, then head to work, looking as cool and hip as a half bald guy can look.

This escapade reminded me of a truth I heard years ago – we all have “blind spots.” Blind spots are things about ourselves we are unaware of or don’t perceive accurately. Faults, weaknesses or areas of our lives we just can’t see.

A few years ago I spoke to one of my kids in the patient, loving way I always do, and he said, “Dad, you sound angry.” “What?” I said. “I’m not angry. And I don’t sound like I’m angry.” My wife chimed in – “You did sound kind of harsh.” “Harsh? I’m not being harsh! I’m speaking completely gently and calmly.” Then one of my older sons said, “Dad, you were harsh.” Blind spot!

Because we all have blind spots, we need others to help us. We need others to adjust us and point out areas we can’t see.

David said 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….”

I need brothers and sisters who will correct me in love – at times “strike me.” Sometimes it doesn’t feel good, but I need to remember “it is a kindness” and “oil for my head.” 

But one of the problems with being corrected about blind spots is in our pride; we can refuse this correction – “let not my head refuse it.” Pride makes us think we’re always right, that we perceive ourselves perfectly. Pride makes us refuse loving input. Pride makes us say, “Harsh? I’m not speaking in a harsh way. I’m speaking completely gently and calmly.” Pride makes us think we know ourselves better than anyone else. Pride – sin – is deceitful.

So here are a few tips:

  • Remember you have blind spots. You don’t know where they are. You aren’t aware of them.
  • Don’t be so sure you are right all the time – you might be wrong – just maybe. (Obviously it would be extremely rare, right?)
  • When someone points something out, don’t be too quick to defend yourself or write them off – they might be right.
  • If someone criticizes you, they may have something legitimate to point out even if they correct you with a bad attitude.
  • If more than one person tells you the same thing, you should be doubly open to their observations.
  • If you just can’t see something someone has pointed out, thank them and tell them you will try to be more aware of it. Thank them that they care enough about you to point out a weakness or sin.
  • Ask them to please mention it to you any time they see it.
  • Remember, no one knows themselves perfectly. Only God does, and often he allows others to see our faults to humble and help us.

So please tell me if I ever show up and my hair looks like a van Gogh sunflower. I might have forgotten to comb it.


Blessed Are Those Who Are Gentle

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

To be meek is to be gentle, humble, lowly.

“The meek are the ‘gentle’… those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength, but who will nonetheless inherit the earth because they trust in God to direct the outcome of events.” ESV Study Bible notes

The first reason we should be meek is because Jesus is.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:1

If God, the infinitely great and all-powerful one, is gentle and meek, how much more should we be!

Meekness shapes the way we relate to our Christian brothers and sisters

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

We’re not to fight and scrape, intimidate or pressure our brothers and sisters to get our way. Rather we should relate to one another with complete – “ALL” – humility and gentleness.

Meekness changes our speech

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

The way to impart life is with a gentle tongue. Anger won’t produce God’s righteousness (James 1:20). Anger may intimidate others to do what we want, but it won’t change their hearts.

Meekness affects the way we correct opponents 

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 Timothy 2:24-25

We can’t persuade anyone by getting in their face. Yelling “murderer!” at a pro-choice person won’t win them to our side. Calling someone who differs with you an idiot won’t persuade them you are right. When we correct opponents, we must realize we can’t change them. Only God can grant repentance. So all we need do is gently submit our correction then trust God to change their heart.

Meekness affects the way we treat people ensnared in sin

We’re tempted to judge those trapped in sin. “How could you possibly do that? I would never do that!” But the Bible tells us we should restore sinners gently:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

We are gentle when we help others who fall because we remember our own spiritual bankruptcy and sins. Each of us is capable of any sin. Remembering this will go along way to helping us restore others gently.

The world says the assert yourself. Put yourself forward. Grab. Fight. The Bible says be meek and you will inherit the earth. When we inherit something we don’t work for it but receive it as a gift. God gives the meek everything they need. Those who are meek find deep contentment and joy.

And someday we will inherit the new earth.


7 Powerful Steps to Overcoming Regret

Most of us have to deal with regret from time to time. Sins we committed in the past. Or maybe sins we committed yesterday. People we’ve hurt. Poor decisions we made.

I can be tempted to regret mistakes I made with my children. Time I have wasted. Failures as a pastor. Things I wish I had done differently in life and ministry.

Though we all have done things we can regret, God doesn’t want regret to rob us of our joy in him or cripple us in our glorious pursuit of him. Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:

Here are seven keys to overcoming regret:

STEPS TO OVERCOMING REGRET

1. Silence the accuser by remembering Christ saved us by his blood.

We have an enemy who loves to remind us of our sins and failures. He’s called in Scripture the accuser of the brethren:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12.10

If Satan can’t keep Jesus from saving us, he will do all he can to impede us in our walk. By accusing us he can get us to focus more on our failures than our Savior.

He would have us dwell on our sins or wallow in self-pity rather than serve others. How can we overcome this accuser? How can we move from our own feelings of regret to overcoming regret?

And they have conquered him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12.11

Christ’s blood has washed us clean of all our sins. Jesus paid for every failure, both before and after we believed in him. We silence Satan’s accusations by turning to Christ every time he accuses us.

Yes, we have failed, but every failure was paid for in full at the cross.

2. Remind yourself there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8.1

Early in my Christian walk, I struggled with condemnation. But someone taught me that every time I felt a stab of regret for sin, I should declare “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And to thank God for this truth. At times it seemed I had to fight condemnation every few minutes, but the more I thanked God the less I felt condemned.

Overcoming regret requires remembering that there is no condemnation for us.

3. Forget what lies behind and keep pressing toward the prize.

“ …But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Paul could have had many regrets. He persecuted Christ’s church. He threw believers into prison. He may have separated parents from children. He watched and approved when Jews stoned Stephen.

But he said he didn’t dwell on his sins. He said he “forgot” what lay behind. Does this mean he couldn’t remember his sins? No. It means Paul intentionally did not focus on them, but focused on the prize, and put his energies into pursuing Christ.

We too should forget the past and focus on the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

4. Thank God that he causes all things, even our failures, to work together for good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8.28

God causes all things, even our sins, to work for good. This doesn’t mean we should sin intentionally, but it means that we can know even when we have blown it, somehow God will turn it to our good.

So when tempted to fall into the pit of regret for past failures, turn it into praise. Say, “Father I praise you, that you are sovereign, and somehow by your infinite power and wisdom, will cause even my failures to work for good.”

5. Remember it is God’s will for you to be fruitful and he has good works for you to walk in.

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

We can be tempted to think that our failures throw a permanent shadow over our possible fruitfulness. No matter how much we have failed, God’s word says he has good works for us to walk in. So when we fall we need to get back up and get back to work. He’s not done with us yet.

My Dad, who died at age 96, spent his days serving others however he could – he painted birthday cards for everyone he knew, he took mentally challenged guys shopping, he delivered blood to nearby towns for the Red Cross. There’s always something we can do.

6. Turn regrets into thanksgiving.

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

Thank God in ALL circumstances – even in the midst of temptation to regret. Thank God that he saved you and has forgiven you of all your sins, that he works all things for good, that your failures remind you of your need for God, thank God for his patience and longsuffering with you, thank him for his steadfast love

7. Let your failures keep you humble.

Though we should not wallow in our regrets, they can help us be humble. I can’t look down on anyone because I have sinned in so many ways. My past failures remind me that I’m capable of anything apart from God’s grace.

I know I’m susceptible to temptation, so I need to pray regularly for God to deliver me from it.

God does not want us to be paralyzed by regret. So let’s not focus on them, but like Paul, focus on and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


Original article can be found here.

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 God Spared Us from the Ultimate Humiliation and Degradation

If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight. (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

How merciful God was in dealing with Israel. A convicted man was to be whipped in the presence of the judge. But he was only to be given a number of strokes in proportion to his crime. The maximum he could receive was 40 stripes, so that he would not be degraded in the sight of his brother. Some crimes might have deserved more than 40 strokes, but God in his kindness did not want to see anyone humiliated in front of his brothers.

But he did not show the same mercy toward his Son.

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (MT 27:26)

The ESV footnote for the word “scourged? says: “A Roman judicial penalty, consisting of a severe beating with a multi-lashed whip containing imbedded pieces of bone and metal.” These cruel whips would literally shred the skin of one’s back and sides.

God, who would spare a guilty man from excessive whipping so he would not be humiliated in front of his brother, did not spare Jesus from degradation. How dehumanizing it was when the Roman soldiers mercilessly whipped him, crowned him with thorns, draped a purple robe over his shoulders, placed a reed in his hands for a scepter, then bowed before him paying him mock homage. How degrading as they struck him and spit in his face. How degrading it was when they stripped him in front of everyone than crucified him like a criminal. How humiliating it was for Jesus to hang there gasping for air, while the crowd mocked and laughed at him in his suffering.

Jesus endured the ultimate degradation of becoming so identified with our sin that his own Father poured out his wrath upon him.

He did all that for us – guilty sinners – we deserved to be degraded and humiliated in the ultimate sense. To perish in hell for eternity. But when we believe in Jesus and call upon him to save us, instead of receiving the degradation we deserve, he clothes us with his righteousness, adopts us as his own children, crowns us with glory. What an incredible, amazing God we serve!

O Lord Jesus, you were scourged and humiliated and degraded for me that I might be lifted up, adopted as a child of God, and share in your inheritance. All glory, honor and praise to you. 


Photo credit: ©thinkstock/mbolina

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.


If You Want To Get To Me You’ll Have To Go Through…

When Jesus saved me, I was amazed, grateful and relieved that he would forgive my sins. But I could never have fathomed the depths of the relationship he had brought me into.

Believers aren’t simply forgiven – they are in union with God – one with him. Paul says we are “IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

We are IN God the Father! When God saves us he joins us to himself. Makes us one with himself. What security! What joy! It’s not like we are here and God is way up there somewhere.The almighty Creator of the universe has joined himself to us who are but specks of dust.

Being IN God means that nothing can get to us unless it first goes through him. Satan can’t touch you unless he goes through God. Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job. Each time God would say, “Okay you can go this far but no further. You can do this but you can’t do that.”

No affliction, no wicked person, no sickness – nothing can attack us without God’s permission because we are IN God the Father.

When I was 14, my dad was transferred to Pennsylvania. As a new kid in school, a couple bullies targeted me for some of their harassment. One day, as I stood in line to shoot baskets in gym class, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the back of my neck. One of the Junior High’s finest happened to be in line right behind me. Apparently he got bored, for he began to give me hard karate chops in the back of the neck. Each chop sent electrifying pain to my head – after about three or four chops my head was pounding. Suddenly another kid, named John, who was built like a football player stepped between me and the bully. Suddenly no more karate chops. For the bully to get to me he had to go through John. I’m still grateful to this day that John interposed and rescued me. Remember, if you are “in God” nothing can get to you unless it first goes through him.

We are also “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are one with the Lord of the universe. Jesus has ascended to heaven where he is enthroned on high as King of Kings and Lord of lords and we are one with him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places Ephesians 1:3

Every spiritual blessing there is is in Christ – and we who believe are in him, so we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places! Not only that but because we are in Christ nothing will ever be able to remove us from him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

We are in Jesus – joined to him – one with him. The church is his body – he’s the head and we’re his hands and feet. We’re joined to him organically.

Jesus said to Saul: “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t think he had been persecuting Jesus. He’d been arresting Christians. Yet Jesus says Saul was doing it to him.

Every Christian will be persecuted at one time or another in some way. But don’t forget you’re in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever anyone does to you they do to Christ. Do you think he’ll take that lightly? Do you think he won’t protect you? How could God not take care of those who are one with him?

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, then you are IN God the Father and IN the Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t be any closer. Don’t forget you are in God. He’ll take care of you. He’ll protect you and provide for you.

IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there any better place to be?


Whose Dream Are You Living For?

God has given humans the incredible ability to dream.

We can imagine the fun we’ll have on vacation, or hitting the ball over the fence and rounding the bases. We can imagine heaven, seeing Jesus’ face and hearing the thunderous waterfall of the praise of multitudes. We can imagine our children growing up to serve God. What an amazing gift to be able to hope and dream.

But we must be on guard, for our idol-factory hearts can so easily turn dreams into demands. Our hopes can easily begin to drive our lives. We can subtly shift from living for God’s glory to living for our idols.

We can unconsciously embrace certain ideas of the way the world is supposed to be. We can buy into the “American Dream”, and then when life doesn’t turn out the way we think it should, we can become disillusioned, depressed, and an easy target for temptation.

Our dream might be as simple as thinking when we turn 16, we’ll get our driver’s license. Or that we’ll graduate from college, have a great career, marry, have children and a home, go to little league games and take vacations at the beach. Or our expectation might be a long, healthy life.

But what if these things don’t happen? What if we never marry, or we lose our health or our job? What if we retire and our wife gets Alzheimer’s?

Actually, the Bible says we should not be surprised when we suffer. Peter tells us we will be suffer all kinds of trials and they will reveal that our faith is genuine and bring glory to Jesus when he returns:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 PE 1.6-7

We are usually surprised by pain and suffering, like they are strange things that shouldn’t happen. But Peter tells us we shouldn’t be surprised:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 PE 4.12

Suffering isn’t something strange for believers; it is normal life. And when we go through trials we shouldn’t be shocked. In fact, James reminds us that afflictions actually produce endurance and the character of Christ in our lives:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

The only way to grow in steadfastness, faithfulness and perseverance, is to go through situations that require these things. The only way to grow in patience is to go through things that require patience. We grow in love by living our lives with those who like ourselves, have many faults and weaknesses.

If we have expectations that life should be easy or always go our way, we will certainly be disappointed.

A member of our church for years dropped out when his son got a girl pregnant and then they got married. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he said. “I did everything I should and look what happened.” He had a certain EXPECTATION that if he did everything right, his children would never sin, grow up perfect. When his dream failed to materialize, he became angry at God.

Though Scripture contains many promises that give parents great hope their children will follow him, it doesn’t guarantee a painless pleasure cruise. The Bible has many promises that believers will experience deep joy, peace and contentment in him. And following Jesus as a disciple is the only path to true and lasting joy. Yet we will also go through dark valleys. In fact, hard times and suffering makes our joy in Christ even sweeter. It’s like an old movie, when a villain ties a woman to the railroad tracks and at the last minute, just before the train runs her over, the hero comes riding in on a white horse and sets her free. The momentary suffering makes the rescue even sweeter.

Remember:

God doesn’t owe us our dreams. He doesn’t owe us long life, health, wealth, a marriage partner, or godly children. In his lavish kindness he gives us many of these blessings but he never owes them to us. God doesn’t owe us anything. And we owe everything to God.

Every blessing we enjoy is an undeserved gift of God’s grace. I expect God to be gracious to me because that is his nature and he promises to be gracious. But he doesn’t owe it to me. If God owed us grace it wouldn’t be grace.

Thank God for every blessing he gives you. Years ago, by God’s grace, I began the practice of writing 1 page a day (most days) in a moleskin journal of things to thank God for. It might be as simple as thanking him for a good night’s sleep or for saving me. It only takes about 10 minutes but it brings me great joy and sets the tone for me to be thankful during the day.

Remember, our dreams will never fulfill us even if we achieve them. Only Christ can satisfy. He alone must be our portion.

We shouldn’t be surprised when we suffer in this fallen world. Things break, people get sick. We sin, our children sin. Others let us down. But someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and we will see how momentary and light our sufferings here were, compared to the eternal joy they will produce in heaven.

God’s “dream” should be our dream. God’s “dream” – well, actually, God’s purpose and plan – is to glorify himself through a rescued people who are increasingly enjoying Jesus and becoming like him. We can live for this dream no matter what our circumstances are.

So whose dream are you living for?


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.


What Does it Mean to Fear God?

What does it mean to fear God? Consider the words of Psalm 147:10-11:

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Ps 147:10-11)

I have a friend whose describes his grandfather as a cantankerous old man who would sit in his chair all day and thwack him and his cousins with his cane anytime they walked in front of him. Is this what God is like?

Sitting in his chair, trying to keep people from having fun? A cosmic grouch?

God commands us to fear him and says that he takes pleasure in us when we fear him. Why? Does he enjoy us being afraid of him? I know I don’t want my children to be afraid of me. I want them to love me and enjoy being with me, not to be afraid of me.

A Humble Fear Of God

So, in what sense are we to fear God? The “fear” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.

To “fear him” means to stand in awe of him: “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 his majesty, power, wisdom, justice and mercy, especially in Christ – in his life, death and resurrection – that is, to have an exalted view of God. To see God in all his glory and then respond to him appropriately. To humble ourselves before him. To adore him.

We tend to be in awe of worldly power, talent, intelligence, and beauty. But these things don’t impress God because “His delight is not in the strength of the horse (mighty armies, worldly power) nor his pleasure in the legs of a man (human strength).”

But God delights in those who fear him – those who stand in awe of him – and instead of trusting in their own human abilities or resources, “hope in his steadfast love.”

The Wicked Do Not Fear God

By way of contrast, the wicked person doesn’t fear God – he doesn’t stand in awe of God. The wicked has a low view of God:

Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.” (PS 36.1-4)

The wicked person has such a low view of God and such a lack of awe for God that he doesn’t think God can find out his sin or hate it. He doesn’t act wisely or do good because he doesn’t view God as holy and just and serious about punishing sin. He trusts in his own wits and strength. Obviously, the Lord doesn’t find any pleasure in the wicked.

The wicked refuses to fear God.

So let us fear God – stand in awe of him, take refuge in him, and hope in his steadfast love. For it brings the Lord pleasure when we trust in him for strength and help, not our own wits and resources.


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.


The Key to Enduring to the Finish Line

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (>HEB 12:1–2)

A couple of years ago I did the only athletic accomplishment in my life. I use the word “athletic” loosely. My son Stephen challenged me to run a half marathon, so I began training a couple months in advance. My only goal was to finish the race. I fully expected to come in last. Actually, I came in third from last—followed by a guy with a walker and a mom pushing her baby in a stroller. Just kidding. But the training and the race required endurance. And the last couple miles of the race were brutal for me. I got to the place where I would jog 10 steps then walk 10 steps, then repeat, gasping for air. The course passed through some woods, and finally I came to a clearing where I could see the finish line in the distance. So, I walked for a few minutes, then burst out of the woods and sprinted over the finish line. Stephen and a few others from the church who’d waited for me began to cheer as I pumped my fists in the air like Rocky. Since then, I’m happy to report I have jogged I think a total of two times.

The author of Hebrews compares our Christian life to a race that requires endurance. He uses the metaphor of a race, not a journey. A journey may be leisurely. We can take breaks, pull over to a rest stop, get a hotel room. But a race is all-out effort from start to finish. But how do we do this? By looking to Jesus, and imitating his example.

How did Jesus endure the horrific pain of the cross? By focusing on the JOY set before him—the joy he’d experience when he rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the throne of God. The joy he’d experience when the Father received him and gave him the Name above every names. The joy he’ll have when he celebrates the marriage supper of the lamb with the multitudes of those he redeemed from every tribe and tongue. Jesus didn’t focus on his pain or the injustice he experienced. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. We often tend to focus on our suffering. I’m not saying we should ignore our pain or put on a fake smile and say it doesn’t hurt. But sometimes we focus too much on our pain—why is this happening to me? Why do I have to go through this?

We need to keep resetting our gaze on the joy set before us. My dad used to tell long circuitous stories. You would mention something and it would trigger a memory for him. For example, once I said something about a candy bar. He launched into a story about traveling across the country and meeting this guy who had a truck and on and on and on, and I’d wonder, “Dad, where are you going with this?” until finally he came to the place where the guy discovered a whole truckload of Kit Kat Bars. I got distracted by the details, but Dad kept his eye on the goal.

So, keep setting your heart on the joy of seeing Jesus face to face and gazing on his splendor. The joy of Jesus wiping every tear from your eyes. The joy of Jesus rewarding you for every single act of obedience, every secret good deed you did, every glass of water you gave to a thirsty one, every dollar you ever gave to the poor, every hour you served in children’s ministry. Keep your eyes on the joy of hearing God say well done good and faithful servant. Keep your eyes on the joy of fellowshipping with Jesus at the marriage supper of the lamb. Remember the joy of having an imperishable body that will never get sick or suffer any pain. Keep your eyes on the joy of ruling and reigning with Jesus and the joy you’ll know when you’re reunited to loved ones who believed in Jesus.


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


How to Not Lose Heart in a Hostile World

The Christian life is a race that requires endurance. In my previous post on Hebrews 12:2: I said that as we look to and imitate Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross—we too will endure. And one particular kind of suffering we must endure is hostility from a world hostile to its Creator and Savior. Jesus said we should expect opposition:

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (MT 10:24–25).

We shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers malign us. We’re to be lights shining in a dark world. People sitting in a dark room don’t like it when someone turns on the lights. Especially if they are up to something no good. “Hey, turn off that light!” they shout. We shine the light of Christ, the light of the gospel, into the darkness. And often the world doesn’t like it.

In this country we don’t usually experience physical opposition. But we may encounter hostile attitudes. A friend of mine worked in a shop with a man who hated him simply because he was a Christian. Every day this man made negative comments and even threats to my friend.

Years ago a family came to our church, and we spent many hours counseling them and trying to help them, even giving them money to help with needs. They wound up leaving the church, and told other pastors in town that I was a Satanist. They harassed us in other ways as well, like making negative comments when they saw us. They lived near us, and one day as the wife was walking in front of our house my wife said hi to her. She responded by saying, “I curse you in Jesus’ name!” Another time she was walking in front of our house with her children, as I arrived home from work. When I said hi, she held her nose and said, “Children! What stinks! See this man? He is defiled. Stay away from him.” So much for a response to my friendly greeting.

Hebrews 12:3 gives us the key to enduring the hostility of others:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (HEB 12.3)

Jesus doesn’t ask us to endure anything he hasn’t been through. He experienced every temptation we have only to the max. Jesus suffered incredible hostility—before he was crucified the religious leaders hated him and continually plotted to kill him. People accused Jesus of having a demon and healing by the power of Satan. At his mock trial before Caiaphas they spit in his face and struck him, and said, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” Brutal Roman soldiers mocked and scourged him. Hostile crowds yelled, “Crucify him,” to Pontius Pilate.

Yet Jesus never reviled, threatened, or cursed in return. He took it silently. How did he do it? Peter tells us:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 PE 2:21–23

When people mocked and insulted Jesus he didn’t retaliate but entrusted himself to his Father—him who judges justly. When he hung on the cross and people spit on him saying, “Hey, save yourself and come down from the cross if you’re the Christ,” he didn’t yell back, “Oh yeah, you just wait till I rise from the dead—you are going to wish you’d never done this to me.” No, he entrusted himself to his heavenly Father. And he even asked his Father to forgive those who had crucified him.

That’s how we are to endure hostility. We are to keep entrusting ourselves to God who judges justly and not take revenge or revile back. To entrust ourselves to God means we keep trusting him to take care of us. That God the all-knowing, all-wise judge will deal with our enemies. That the One who is perfectly just and will make everything right in the end. To entrust ourselves to God means we put ourselves in his hands and trust him to defend us and deal with those who attack us.

My friend that I mentioned whose co-worker harassed him didn’t curse him or threaten him, but prayed for and forgave him. God gave my wife and I grace to not retaliate against the family that called me a Satanist. The only way I could get through their harassment was to keep looking to Jesus, entrusting myself to my heavenly Father. I didn’t always do it well. I was seriously tempted to anger at times and wanted to revile back, but God helped me not to.

Are you experiencing hostility from someone? Consider Jesus and the unimaginable hostility he endured. Don’t strike back. Don’t take things into your own hands. Don’t repay cursing with cursing. Do what Jesus did and entrust yourself to him who judges justly. That’s how he will keep you from growing weary or fainthearted.


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.