Mark Altrogge


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

4 Ways Prayer Humbles Us

Most of us don’t like to humble ourselves. At least I don’t like to. And prayer is an act of humility. Prayer is an act of weakness. When we pray we admit to God that we desperately need help. That we’re weak and needy and not in control of all things. That we are not self-sufficient.

But God is attracted to this act of humility. So in 1 Peter 5:6–7 he tells us:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

We humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.” In other words prayer acknowledges that God is sovereign and controls all things. We bow before his sovereignty. We acknowledge that God rules but his mighty hand and we can’t control a single thing in and of ourselves.

Prayer waits for “the proper time” for God to lift us up. Waiting for God is humbling for us, and, again, we acknowledge that we can’t change anything and must wait for God to. We must patiently wait for the One who knows the end from the beginning, the infinitely wise one, who knows the absolute perfect time to come riding in to rescue us or supply our need. He knows the perfect time to answer our prayers. Our affliction won’t last one second longer than he determines.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on him. Why must we tell God our cares when he already knows them? Because asking is an act of humility, and since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), prayer puts us in the position to receive grace. God so longs to pour out his grace on us, he tells us the best way to receive it!

God tells us to cast or anxieties on him “because he cares for you.” When we pray it’s important to remind ourselves that God, the creator of the galaxies, the sustainer of heaven and earth, is deeply concerned for us—individually. I used to think God was so busy running the universe he didn’t have time for my “petty” needs. But I found out that God loves and cares deeply about his children individually. He knows us by name. He knows every hair on our heads. So pray because God cares about you and your anxieties and needs. If he feeds the sparrows of the field and the ravens that cry out, how much more will he hear the cries of his precious blood-bought children?

Don’t be proud. Don’t try to tough it out and get through life on your own. Humble under the hand of the Almighty who is tenderhearted, sympathetic and generous, and waiting to pour out grace. Cast your anxieties on him and he will lift you up at the proper time.


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


What to do With a Crust of Bread

Why am I ungrateful at times? Discontentment reveals I am taking delight in something other than Jesus Christ. It reveals I’m looking to my circumstances for joy, not to the God of my salvation.

This is just the opposite of a woman Charles Spurgeon spoke of:

“I have heard of some good old woman in a cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water. Lifting up her hands, she said as a blessing, “What! All this, and Christ too?”

This woman realized that Jesus Christ was her all in all. He was her bread of life, her spring of living water. Jesus was her treasure and all her joy was in him. That’s why she could rejoice in a crust of bread and a little water. Her joy came from Jesus, not her circumstances.

When we look to the things of this world to provide our joy we will always be disappointed, for we have been designed to find our satisfaction in God alone:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.  Isaiah 55:1-2

God tells us not to spend our money for that which is not bread. In other words, don’t live for the things of this world. They are like plastic fruit, which might look tasty, but ultimately won’t satisfy. Pursue him who truly satisfies, Jesus Christ, the bread of life. If we have Jesus we don’t need anything else. If we have Jesus, then all other blessings are just extras – icing on the cake.

If the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned could rejoice over a crust of bread, how much more should we be thankful who not only have Christ but have a thousand other blessings in our lives. How about you? Can you say this about your life today – What! All this, and Christ too?

Can I suggest a simple practice that will bring joy into your life and help cultivate thankfulness? After a time in God’s word in the morning, I try to take 10 minutes and write things I am grateful for in a journal. I write things as simple as “Thank you for the sunshine and warm weather,” or “Thank you for my eyesight and hearing,” or “Thank you that I got to spend time with my granddaughter yesterday.” Or I might thank God for spiritual blessings, like, “Thank you for saving me and washing all my sins away,” or “Thank you for giving me eternal life” or “Thank you for your steadfast love and your mercies new every morning.” I usually write no more than a page. This habit sets the stage for my day, and reminds me to thank Jesus throughout the day for his unceasing mercies. Give it a try.

Rejoice in Jesus today. Look around and echo the poor woman Spurgeon mentioned: What! All this, and Christ too?


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.


Really? ALL THINGS Without Grumbling? Really?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world Philippians 2:14-15

Are you kidding? All things? All things without grumbling?

You don’t know my boss. You don’t know the ridiculous burdens he straps on our backs every day. All things? You don’t know what a slob my husband is and how I have to constantly pick up after him. You don’t have to work in a cubicle next to Mr. “I’m wearing cologne you can smell in 3 states.”

All things without grumbling? Did Paul have a two-year-old? I don’t think so. Paul wouldn’t survive one morning at my house with my kids. He’d be revising Philippians by 10:30 a.m. Do all things without grumbling? I don’t think Paul had to pay the kind of taxes I have to pay. He didn’t have to jump through the hoops and forms I have to jump through and fill out. 

The “all things” Paul tells us to do without grumbling aren’t the fun things. Nobody grumbles about having to do something fun or pleasant. It’s the miserable things. The hard tasks. The unreasonable assignments. The ridiculous chore that you’ll just have to do again tomorrow anyway. The unexpected tasks. The interruptions. The things you’d rather not do. Cleaning up after that person. Serving that ungrateful customer.

Paul – actually, God – tells us we’re to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing. We may think this is impossible given where we work, our boss, our coworkers. As I wrote this I thought about Christians suffering for their faith in North Korean labor camps. Even there God requires his servants to do all things without grumbling or disputing. Wow. What grace that would take. We have it easy, yet how quickly we slide into complaining.

Why does God give us this command? Isn’t it enough to be morally pure? Isn’t it enough not to curse and punch holes in the wall when required to do something unpleasant? What’s so bad about complaining or grumbling a little bit? Everybody does it.

That’s just it – everybody does it.

We complain about everything. We complain about the weather and the traffic and the government. We complain about being stuck working inside when the weather’s nice. We bellyache about our boss. About our co-workers. About the customers. We grumble about our teens and our toddlers. It’s our way of life.

That’s why God wants us to be different. He wants us to stand out against the dark backdrop of the world as his witnesses.

When we go about that ridiculous assignment cheerfully, we stand out as “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” The world is watching us. The world wants to assure itself that Christians aren’t any different from them. If we act just like them, then our faith hasn’t done anything for us. It hasn’t changed us. Why should they cry out to a Savior if it doesn’t matter? Why should they repent and turn from sin?

Most unbelievers don’t commit adultery. Most don’t steal. Most are decent, upright citizens. But everyone complains. Everybody grumbles. So Paul says that when we do all things without grumbling we stand out. It demonstrates the reality of our faith. There’s nothing to accuse us of – we’re blameless and innocent not only in God’s eyes but in the world’s eyes. We “shine as lights in the world” –  we’re blazing beacons in a dark world. We’re powerful witnesses for Jesus.

How do we get there? The best way is by practicing thankfulness. Thank God for anything and everything. Thank him for your unreasonable boss. Thank him for that unpleasant assignment. For your co-worker and that cologne he wears that makes you gag.

Oh, by the way, don’t thank him for your co-worker’s cologne in the next cubicle out loud.


13 Reasons You Are Precious to God

We who believe in Jesus can often be more aware of our sin and unworthiness than God’s love for and delight in us. We may believe that God accepts us in his son, but it’s hard to believe he takes pleasure in us and views us as precious to him. Yet 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that God cares for us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us God delights in his children and rejoices over them. Here are thirteen reasons you are precious to God:

Because he created you
Because he created you in his own image
Because he purchased you with the blood of his Son
Because he has washed away all your sins
Because he adopted you as his own child
Because he has joined you to Christ, made you one with his Son
Because you are part of his bride
Because he has put his own Spirit in you
Because he is transforming you more and more into the likeness of his Son
Because he is manifesting a fragrance of Christ through you to the world
Because he has imputed the very righteousness of Christ to you
Because he has plans and a purpose for you
Because you delight in his Son and desire to obey and glorify him

We can’t fathom God’s incredible love for us. In and of ourselves, there would be nothing to attract him, nothing for him to delight in. But he has made us new creations in Christ, created in the likeness of Jesus, in whom is all his delight.

Praise God today that he has made you precious and delightful to himself.


5 Things Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

Over the years I’ve counseled some individuals who’ve been horribly sinned against.

At times I did a really poor job of helping them navigate their pain and the process of working toward forgiveness. Forgiving others is clearly commanded by God, and deep down most believers want to, but it isn’t always easy, and lots of questions arise. Questions like, when I forgive must I feel like forgiving? If I forgive you does it mean end of discussion and I can’t talk about my hurt feelings? Does it mean everything’s automatically back to the way it was before you sinned against me? There are whole books written on the subject, but here are a few things that forgiveness doesn’t mean. I hope they are helpful.

The command to forgive doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that we must forgive quickly. When we are sinned against, it can be devastating, life-shattering, disillusioning, disorienting. Some sins are easy to forgive, but others can take a long time, much prayer, and much help from God. When someone’s reeling in pain, the first thing they need is our compassion and sympathy, not a quick encouragement to forgive. That will probably be part of the process of helping someone, but not the first step. I regret that at times in the past I was incredibly insensitive to some people’s pain and way too quick to suggest that they meet with those who’d sinned against them and grant forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we will feel like forgiving. Forgiveness is a decision of the will to absorb the pain or consequences caused by someone’s sin and not require them to repay. If you borrow my car and wreck it, someone’s got to pay to fix it, you or me. If I “forgive” you, I make a costly decision to absorb the cost of your failure, just as Jesus absorbed the cost of our sins and paid for them on the cross. So, it can be very painful to forgive someone. So, the command to forgive doesn’t mean we will “feel forgiving” when we make this decision. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t experience pain for a long time after we forgive.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must immediately trust someone. Forgiveness is instantaneous; trust is earned over time. If a drunkard comes to church and turns to Christ, God forgives him immediately, but he shouldn’t become a leader the next day. If someone asks our forgiveness for hurting us, we can forgive them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve changed. It’s not wrong to want to see a track record of change before trusting someone again, even if we’ve forgiven them.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean end of discussion. How many of us husbands have said to our wives, “I said I was sorry. So, why do we have to keep talking about it?” Even when we forgive, it can be really important for the one sinned against to share how the offender hurt or affected them. We need to realize the consequences of our sins. Often we need to consider all that led up to our sin—how we got there in the first place—in order to prevent future sin.

And finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences for sin. If I foolishly max out my credit card, then confess my sin, God will forgive me, but I’ll still have to pay off my debt, which might take years. When we forgive someone, we are saying, “Lord, please don’t condemn them for this sin. Please don’t give them what their sin deserves, just as you have not given me what my sins deserve.” But there may still be consequences—even life-long consequences—even when God forgives them of the guilt of their sin.

Sometimes it’s easy to forgive. At other times it feels like an impossible task. Very often, Jesus commands us to do the impossible, like love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (LK 6:27). We can’t do these impossible things on our own, but if God commands them, he will give us the grace to obey him if we ask for it.


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


7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years of Pastoral Ministry

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Our example is every bit as important as important as our words

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. Philippians 3:17

Paul told his churches to imitate him. People are watching us—our neighbors, relatives, fellow believers, and our children—and as one man said, our kids can smell hypocrisy a mile away. Once at a local deli counter, the man fetching my cheese said, “Hey, aren’t you the pastor at that church on Wayne Avenue?” I’d never seen him before but thought at the time, This guy knows I’m a pastor. What if I’d had a bad attitude if he sliced my Muenster too thick? None of us are perfect, but we should make it our goal to act like Christ wherever we are. Would people want to imitate you in the way you go through hard things, or how you react when someone blasts you in anger, or how you act when your plans go awry, or your kids disobey?

Every day we have countless opportunities to model humility, kindness, gentleness, holiness, thankfulness – to model Jesus—for fellow believers and a watching world. And our example is every bit as important as our words.

God’s people want to please him

This may seem ridiculous, but early on I thought I needed to convince people to obey Jesus against their wills. When I led worship, my unconscious mindset was: These people don’t really want to worship Jesus. I have to whip them into it. I’d give exhortations like, “Come on everybody, let’s worship Jesus like you really mean it.” I had to preach so as to whip them out of their lethargy to serving God. Now I think differently. Generally, God’s people want to please him. That’s why they’re there on Sunday. Sure, they get beat down by life and fall into sin or unbelief at times. They need to be encouraged to lift their eyes to Jesus and trust him, but he’s given them new hearts and his Spirit. Deep down they want to please him, obey him and worship him.

Anything good that happens is God’s doing

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12

We’re so prone to look at our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves. Look what I did! There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about something we’ve done. After all, when God created the earth, he looked at what he had created each day and saw that it was good. But ultimately, if we do anything good it’s because God has gifted us, helped us, and prospered us. We need to remember that all we have is a gift from God, and we have nothing but what we’ve received, and in response, try to regularly give him thanks for all he does for us.

In every negative criticism there’s almost always some truth

Even if someone’s criticism is completely off, there’s almost always something we can learn. James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Often when someone brings us negative criticism, our first reaction can be to defend ourselves or write them off. Someone’s critique may not be 100% correct, but I’ve found there’s almost always something I need to see or learn from it.

Once I was working through some things with an offended brother and a friend gave me this great advice: sit down with him and take notes, without defending yourself or responding until he shares all that’s on his mind. Then, if there’s anything to ask forgiveness for, do so. If you’re not convicted of sin, tell him you’ll seriously consider all he shared and thank him for caring about you enough to meet and talk. Later, after considering what he said, you might respond to some of his points.

Preach every message to yourself

Pastors, teachers, parents – preach to yourself first. Though I hope my teachings affect others, I want God’s word to search me first. Never “pulpit punch”. That is, never try to address a particular individual in the church through your preaching. If you need to talk to someone about something, go to them in private. Sometimes when people say, “Mark, you were preaching directly to me in that message. I felt like we were the only ones in the room,” I say, “Thanks for listening! I was preaching to myself.”

Disagreement is not disloyalty

Sadly, strong leaders sometimes interpret disagreement as disloyalty. Don’t be offended when people question you or disagree with you. Challenging one another can be really healthy. Husbands, if your wife disagrees with you, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t support you or stand behind you. She’s probably trying to help you. Pastors, you don’t always have to be right. Recently a fellow pastor graciously pointed out some areas of weakness in my life, not because he was being critical or disloyal, but exactly the opposite—because he cares about me and wants me to focus on things I’m good at.

Sometimes you have to take the high road

Once I was trying to work through some issues with a brother who I felt had wronged me. He just couldn’t see what I wanted him to see. We had a number of conversations and I just couldn’t make my point. As I shared my frustration with another brother, he said, “Mark sometimes you just have to take the high road. I think you’re wanting something from him you’re not going to get. You should just forgive him, pray for him, then trust the Lord that if he wants him to see something, he’ll show it to him.” Life-changing advice. The man never did see what I wanted him to see, but I was able to put it in God’s hands and it never bothered me after that.

I’ve learned a lot more over the years, but that’s plenty for now. Hopefully more to come in future posts….


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.


Bitter to Sweet

I love how the Lord provides for his people in unexpected ways.

Peter doesn’t know where the cash will come from to pay the temple tax, so Jesus tells him to go fishing. He pulls out a fish with a gold coin in its mouth. Another time the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowds away so they can go into the local towns and grab some food. But Jesus comes out of left field again and turns a few fish and rolls into a picnic for thousands.

Three days after the Israelites watch God split the Red Sea and engulf the Egyptian army, they come to a place called Marah (Ex 15:22). Three days and they have yet to find any water. Their lips are cracked and their throats parched. So when they see desert sun glinting on water their hopes soar. But when they run to taste it, it’s brackish. It’s obviously Moses’ fault. He should have done a Google search for the nearest pure watering hole before leaving Egypt. “Hey miracle man, what are we going to drink?” they gripe. They were obviously suffering short term memory loss. Hadn’t God miraculously saved them from Pharaoh just 3 days earlier? How often our first response to any trial is to grumble and plunge into instant unbelief.

Moses does the wisest thing to do when in trouble – he cries out to the Lord. Immediately, God shows Moses a log, or tree (ESV footnote). Moses takes the tree, tosses it into the filthy water, and it becomes not merely drinkable, but sweet!

Approximately 1500 years later God again unexpectedly provides for his people by a tree. When our lives are bitter and brackish with sin, when there is no earthly way to cleanse our putrid souls, God takes his sinless Son and nails him to a tree. A Roman cross, drenched in the blood of Jesus, makes our bitter lives sweet.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Ga. 3:13).

Obviously, it isn’t the Roman cross that sweetened our lives, but the One nailed to the tree, taking our bitter curse so he could give us his sweet forgiveness and peace. Praise God for his unsearchable wisdom and unexpected salvation! Praise Jesus for immersing himself in our polluted world and by his death giving us life and sweetness and light.


The One Question That Creates Humility and Thankfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Why We Should Keep Waiting For God

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

The ESV Study Bible comments on this passage:

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

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

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

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


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


12 Things To Do When You’re Criticized

We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.

Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)

This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.

Be slow to speak (James 1:19).

Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.

Be slow to become angry.

Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.

Don’t rail back.

“When (Jesus) 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 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.

Give a gentle response.  

“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.

Don’t defend yourself too quickly.

Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.

Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.

Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.

Remember the Cross.

Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure, but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.

Consider the fact that you have blind spots  

We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.

Pray about the criticism

Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalms 32:8).

Ask others for their opinion

Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.

Consider the source.  

Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.


What To Do While You’re Waiting For The Light To Dawn

 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. (PS 112.4)

I know how it feels to be in the darkness. Literally and spiritually. I remember touring Onondaga Cave in Missouri as a kid. At one point the tour guide turned out the lights. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I also remember when I walked in spiritual darkness and the Lord shone his light into my darkened heart. And I remember many times since believing that Jesus has taken me through dark and dismal valleys where all I could do is trust him until his light broke through.

When we’re in the darkness of affliction, our temptation is to circle the wagons and turn inward. We’re tempted to self-pity and self-focus. To withdraw. We don’t feel like being around others. But God tells us to do the opposite. When we’re in the darkness we should seek his grace to be others-oriented. To be gracious, merciful, generous. And Psalm 112 emphasizes being generous to the poor.

While we wait for God’s light to dawn in our darkness, we should:

  • Fear the Lord and delight in his commands (PS 112:1)
  • Be gracious and merciful (4)
  • Deal generously and lend (5)
  • Continue to steadfastly trust the Lord (7-8)
  • Distribute freely and give to the poor (9)

So as you pray and wait for God to save a loved one or break through in your own night, keep trusting in the Lord. Give to the poor. Give to Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse. Wire some money to a pastor in a poor nation. Bless someone in need in your church.

And remember, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, hung in the darkness of God’s wrath for 3 hours for you, so that his light could pierce the darkness of your sin and lostness. If he did the greater thing – opening your blind eyes and bringing you into his glorious light – then surely he will do the lesser thing now that you are his beloved child – to answer your prayers for your loved one or meet your need.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (PR 4:18)

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

PS 37:3-6

Keep trusting Jesus. He has not abandoned you. He is just waiting for the perfect moment for his light to dawn in your darkness.


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.


8 Ways to Beat Temptation

We all face temptations of many kinds. God wants us to beat them. We don’t have to sin, as powerful as temptations feel. Here are 8 ways to gain the victory.

1.  Pray before you are tempted

Jesus instructed his disciples to ask God, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” And as he told us to pray, “Give us THIS DAY” our daily bread,” it’s good to ask God to deliver us from temptation and evil THIS DAY.

2. Flee. A good run is better than a bad fall.

Stay as far away sin as you can. Don’t think you won’t fall. If you hired someone to transport your most valuable possessions, you wouldn’t tell them to see how close to the edge of a cliff they could drive. In Proverbs 7 a “young man lacking sense” wanders near the house of an woman at twilight, and just “happens” to run into her. She’s dressed sensually. She says her husband’s gone and describes her perfumed bed. Eventually he follows her like an ox going to slaughter. Eve got into trouble by engaging with Satan and looking at how delicious the fruit looked. Flee temptation. Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.

3. Quote Scripture

That’s how Jesus overcame the tempter. When you feel like grumbling remind yourself to “rejoice always.” When tempted to give a harsh reply think, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” When rankling against correction remind yourself, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Of course, to quote Scripture when tempted means we must know it first, which means we must regularly take it in.

4. Pray in the midst of temptation.

Draw near to the throne of grace for help in time of need. Your sympathetic high priest, who was tempted as you are yet without sin, will help you (Heb 4).

5. Get a brother or sister to pray with you.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

6. Ask someone to hold you accountable.

A friend once said to me, “Mark, when I get back from my business trip this week, can you ask me if I watched TV in the hotel room? When I’m alone on trips I can be tempted to watch bad stuff. Knowing you are going to ask me will help me fight temptation.”

7. Remember God’s faithfulness.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 CO 10:13). God will never let us be tempted beyond the strength he gives, and if we ask he’ll “provide the way of escape” to get us through it.

8. Remind yourself that sin has consequences.

Remember Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband’s death, God forgave him, but told him the sword would never depart from his house, that his own family members would do him great harm and the child he conceived with Bathsheba would die. (2 Sa 12:10–14).

So here’s a quick summary:

Pray before you are tempted
Flee
Quote Scripture
Pray in the midst of temptation
Get a brother or sister to pray with you
Ask someone to hold you accountable
Remember God’s faithfulness
Remind yourself that sin has consequences

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.


That Thing We Don’t Like to Think About

It’s that thing we don’t like to think about.  

It’s like the weird uncle locked in the basement.  Every now and then we hear him knock around down there and we try to ignore him.

It’s like distant lightning. Every once in a while it flits across the horizon but we quickly look the other way. Because we get uncomfortable when we think about it. Oh, we know it’s coming sometime, a long, long time from now. There’ll be time to think about it later. What is “it”?  Death.

As a culture, we do a pretty good job of hiding death from ourselves. When someone dies, we quickly whisk them off to a mortician who makes them look as good as possible. We have a few hours of viewing the body, we hold a funeral, close the casket and everybody goes to a luncheon.

We don’t like to think about death. At least not our own. We’re a funny people – we have all kinds of TV shows about murders, police, and emergency rooms, yet we don’t like contemplating our fragility. We think we’re going to live forever. If we just work out, don’t eat too much fat, and buckle our seat belts, we’ll be the next Methuselah.

It wasn’t always like this. For example, when Jonathan Edwards lived:

“Colonial citizens of the 17th and 18th centuries knew a world much different from ours. They had no hospitals. They possessed precious few working remedies for illness. They knew very little about the causes of sickness – germ theory, for example, did not emerge until the mid-19th century. Pregnancy and labor were potentially fearful undertakings: scholars have estimated that one in six children died in colonial America, meaning that most families would mourn the loss of at least one or two children in their lifetime…. Attacks from Native Americans posed a constant threat in many places. American colonists did not study death out of a perverse fascination, but practical necessity. Where we try to cheat death they prepared themselves to meet death.” Strachan and Sweeney, Heaven & Hell, The Essential Edwards Collection

People in  Jonathan Edwards’ day didn’t believe they could play the “Get Out of Death” card. They were more aware of its reality. And they prepared for it. If we thought more about how uncertain this life is, we might prep more for the next one. Reality check:

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field… Psalms 103:15

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalms 144:4

In college I felt invincible. It might have been the drugs. As invincible as we can feel, all it would take is for one tiny blood vessel in our brain to break to launch us into eternity. I think many of us tend to be like the man in Jesus’ parable:

And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ Luke 12:19-20

So what should we do? Sit around with long faces? Dress in black and wear Grim Reaper masks? No – believers in Jesus Christ have hope of everlasting life in heaven. We should be the most joyful people on earth. But we can so easily adapt the world’s mindset. So here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Consider often how tenuous this life is.
  • Be ready to die. Be certain Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Make sure all your relationships are good – ask forgiveness of anyone you need to. Forgive anyone who has sinned against you.
  • Make the most of your time. Grab any opportunity you can to love and serve others. Encourage people. And be patient with them. Bless them. Give to the kingdom and the poor. Overflow with thanks and praise. And live a holy life.

I love this life as much as the next guy. But I don’t want to forget it’s field grass. There’s an infinitely better life to come.


13 Scriptures to Meditate on When Your Future Is Uncertain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

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

1) Write out your prayers

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

2) Pray specific Bible verses

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

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

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Is 59:21

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

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

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

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

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

3) Make lists

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

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

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

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

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

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

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

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


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

The One Phrase that Can Diffuse Any Argument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Best Way To Spend Your Life

Complete 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

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

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

If you chose number 10 you were correct.

Let me put the whole verse together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to 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.


How to Commend the Gospel to Others

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

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

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

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

First of all, we commend ourselves by endurance

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

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

Secondly, we commend ourselves by genuine love for others

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

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

We commend ourselves by honesty

by truthful speech (7)

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

We commend ourselves by God’s power

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

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

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

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

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

We commend ourselves by rejoicing in affliction

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

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

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


Who Are You Serving This Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to serve others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!