Mark Altrogge


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

We All Will be Surprised on Judgment Day

A lot of people are going to be surprised on judgment day. Because the things they do to believers they are really doing to Jesus himself personally. Everything from ISIS beheading Christians to North Koreans abusing believers in prison camps to that person at work who makes fun of you because of your faith. They’re not hurting mere humans, but everything they do they’re doing to Jesus himself, As Saul found out.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:1–5)

What a shock this must have been to Saul. No wonder he said later he was the foremost of sinners, for he had persecuted the church of God (1 Timothy 1:15). Every time he threw a believer into prison, he was abusing the Savior of the world. He was afflicting the Creator of the universe.

But those who persecute Christians are not the only ones who are going to be surprised on judgment day. Jesus said believers are going to be surprised:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34–39)

Anything we do for the lowliest believer—“the least of these my brothers”—we do to Jesus. Anything. And we don’t simply do it for Jesus, we do it to Jesus: “You did it to me.”

My dad would regularly take a mentally handicapped guy to pick up food. He’d bring him to church on Sunday, then take him to Wendy’s for a burger afterwards. I know that when my dad went to heaven last year, Jesus said, “JJ, every time you took Tommy to Wendy’s you were taking me.”

When you help a brother move, spend the day with a crew working on a widow’s house, pray for that discouraged sister, or slip that brother $20 to get some food, remember who you’re doing it to. Even the smallest acts of love we do for believers will be rewarded:

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

“Even a cup of water!” Most of the deeds Jesus will reward won’t be monumental, but the smallest acts of kindness in his name.

All those diapers you change, all those stories you tell your kids at night, all those rides you give to the volleyball tournament—all will be rewarded. Every dollar you give to the poor, every visit to the nursing home, every trip to the hospital to see that sick brother, every long morning with the 3-year-olds in Children’s Ministry, every meal you take that family with the newborn, every word of consolation, every text to encourage, every prayer for that hurting believer—you do to Jesus himself and he won’t forget the smallest act of kindness. After all, he remembers every cup of water we give in his name.

So, do whatever you can today to bless brother or sister or someone in need. It doesn’t have to be big. And don’t bother trying to remember it because Jesus will remind you of it on judgment day.


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 Most Important Step in Becoming More Like Jesus Christ

How do we become more like Christ? By beholding him.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 CO 3.18)

“In what way do we behold his glory?… It’s the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Therefore, to behold his glory we must gaze into the gospel by faith. As we do this, the Spirit will transform us more and more into his likeness.” – Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington, Bookends for the Christian Life

We become like the One we behold in the Word. As we see him stretch out his hand in compassion to heal a leper, we see how we should be compassionate. When we see Jesus have mercy on the woman caught in adultery, we grow in mercy. As we observe Jesus resist the temptations of Satan to love the world, we learn to love the Lord our God as he did. As we gaze on Jesus hanging on the cross, and not revile his enemies but say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” we learn to trust our heavenly father and forgive our enemies.

As we see Jesus submit to his Father’s will—“Not my will be done, but yours”—we to learn to submit to our wills to the Father’s will. As we see Jesus caring for his mother while he hangs on the cross, we to learn to honor our parents and care for them. And as we gaze upon Jesus enduring all things because of his love for us, we to learn to endure the sins and failures of others out of love for them.

As we see Jesus empty himself and make himself poor that he might make us rich, we in turn learn to empty ourselves and lay down our lives for others. As we watch Jesus welcome little children, we, too, learn how important children are to Jesus.

As we watch Jesus put up with the pride, selfishness, and stupidity of his disciples, we grow in patience with our fellow believers’ foibles. As we marvel to watch Jesus kneel before his disciples the night before he is to die and wash their feet, the Holy Spirit grows us in humility and servanthood.

We behold the glory of the Lord in all of Scripture. We behold the glory of his holiness and righteousness. The glory of his steadfast love and faithfulness. We see him keep his promises to his people and be true to his word. We behold him creating beauty and caring for widows and orphans. The Bible is filled with the glory of the Lord.

The first step to become more like Christ is to behold his glory in his Word. That’s why it’s so important for us to regularly take in Scripture. For as we read or listen to God’s word we  behold Jesus, and the Holy Spirit transforms us into his image.


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


12 Things to Thank God for in the Midst of Affliction

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

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

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

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

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

2) That God’s love and mercies never cease

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

3) That Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.

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

4) That God is with you in your affliction

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

5) That God hears your every prayer

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

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

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

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28–29

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

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

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

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

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

9) That God is near you in your pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Surprising Reason We Should Pray for Our Leaders

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1–6

Why should we pray for our leaders? So the economy will prosper? So we can bear arms? So our taxes won’t be high? Should we pray for our leaders so we don’t have to pay so much for health care? So that gas prices won’t be so high?

This may surprise you, but the reason we should pray for our leaders is so that people will be saved. Here is Paul’s line of thought in 1 Timothy: I urge you to pray for your leaders so you will enjoy peace and the gospel will spread and so people will be saved and come to know the truth: the gospel of God’s mediator Jesus Christ.

Paul links peacetime and salvation together: people leading peaceful and quiet lives is pleasing to God because he desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

It is much easier to spread the gospel in times of peace than when nations are distracted and consumed by times of chaos and war. In our nation there were revivals before both the American Revolution and the Civil War. I’m sure that people were saved during both those wars, but not in the same large numbers before them.

God tells us to pray for our leaders because God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. It is fine to care about politics, and God calls many believers to be involved in politics, but he never wants us to lose focus on his kingdom and his desire to save multitudes.

So, let’s pray for our leaders—that God will give them wisdom and cause them to promote life and righteousness and peace. And let’s ask God to use the times of peace he gives our nation to draw multitudes to himself and that millions will come to know Jesus Christ the mediator between God and man.


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


God’s Shovel is Bigger than Mine

The story is told of a farmer who was known for his generous giving and whose friends could not understand how he could give so much and yet remain so prosperous. One day a spokesman for his friends said, “We can’t understand you. You give far more than any of the rest of us and yet you always seem to have more to give.” “Oh that is easy to explain,” the farmer said. “I keep shovelling into God’s bin and God keeps shovelling back into mine and God has the bigger shovel.” –Herbert Lockyer

God calls us to be generous givers. Generous giving is pleasing to him and advances the gospel. As we shovel into God’s bin, he will shovel back into ours. And God has the bigger shovel.

When we give generously, we reflect God’s own lavish nature. God so loved the world he GAVE – his only begotten SON for our salvation. And Jesus emptied himself and became poor to make us rich.

But first of all, WHOSE MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?

We tend to think of our money as our own. We say, “I’m going to deposit MY paycheck.” “MY finances are really tight.” “I don’t think that’s how we should spend OUR money.” But in reality, our money isn’t ours. It’s God’s. And we are just stewards of it.

Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”

And in Ps 50:10-12 God tells us “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills… and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

Everything on earth, including you and me, belongs to God because he created it. And if you have repented of your sins and turned to Jesus Christ in faith for salvation, then God owns you twice. Not only did he create you, but he bought you with Jesus’ blood. There’s a church in nearby Murraysville, PA, named “Blood Bought Church.” It’s an unusual name and one non-Christians might think strange, but it’s a good reminder that Jesus owns us because he bought us with his blood. We are not our own.

All we have is a gift from God:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

What do you have that you did not receive? You may say, “I have wealth because I worked hard for it. I took my gifts and talents and was diligent and applied myself.” Who gave you your gifts and talents? Who gave you the ability to think? Who gave you the health and strength to be diligent? Who gave you opportunities? Who allowed you to live in this country where there are jobs?

In Deuteronomy 8:17-18 God says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

It’s not OUR money. God has LOANED it to us and we are stewards. God is watching to see what we will do with HIS money. And he wants us to be GENEROUS with it.

It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money. If you gave me $5000 and said give this to people who really need it, it would be easy for me. I’d have no problems giving away your money. If we think of our money as ours, we’ll be tempted to be tight. If we think of it as God’s, it’s much easier to give it away.

So what will you do today with God’s money? I suggest you shovel it out to your church or missions or the poor. But get ready to keep shovelling because God is going to shovel back into your bin, and God has the bigger shovel.


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 It Means and Does Not Mean to Honor Our President

Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

A couple weeks ago I wrote in a post that we should never badmouth the President, but honor him. We are to honor him because God commands us to, not because we deem him worthy of honor. Peter told his readers to honor the emperor, who was Nero, a wicked murderer. But what exactly does it mean to “honor” our President? Here are a few thoughts:

First, to honor the President means we recognize that God has placed him there.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1–2

No matter how much we disagree with or disapprove of our president, we must realize that God has placed him there to accomplish his own sovereign purpose, as God did with Pharaoh in Moses’ day:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Romans 9:17

Since God has placed our president in office, we should speak of him respectfully, not in a dishonoring, mocking way. We should also pray for him and bless him. God commands believers to pray for our leaders and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2). We should bless our president. Hey, if Jesus commands us to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28) (and I’m not saying our President curses us), then we can certainly bless our president.

Remembering that God is sovereign should lead us to pray that God would move upon our president’s heart, as it says in Proverbs 21:1:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Pray that God will direct and move the hearts of President Obama and all our leaders to promote righteousness, life, the kingdom, and glory of God. Ask Jesus to give our leaders wisdom. Ask God to turn their hearts like streams of water.

Finally to honor the President means we should be subject to him and our government:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:13–14).

To “be subject” or “submit” to our government means to obey the government. We may not be happy about taxes or regulations we must follow, but God calls us to do obey our government unless it commands us to sin.

What honoring our President DOES NOT mean

To honor our president does not mean we must agree with everything he says or does or that we must commend it or condone it. Or that we cannot speak out for truth and righteousness. To honor our president does not mean that we cannot work within legal means to oppose him and change policies we don’t believe are righteous or helpful. To honor our president does not mean we can’t express where we feel he is wrong.

To honor our president does not mean that we must obey laws if they require us to disobey God. If the President were to forbid us to proclaim the Gospel, we would have to disobey him. But we should obey and submit to all laws that do not cause us to sin, even if we don’t agree with them.

Fear God. Honor the emperor.

We seek to honor the President because we fear God. God is the only one we must seek to obey every time, without question. And this wonderful God we fear commands us to honor the President, who is in our God’s sovereign hands and subject to our God’s sovereign will.


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 You Should Think Twice before Bad-mouthing Obama

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17

Conservative ex-rocker Ted Nugent recently described President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.” Later he told Dallas-based talk radio host Ben Ferguson, “I do apologize—not necessarily to the president—but on behalf of much better men than myself.”

PJ O’Rourke said, “Barack Obama is more irritating than the other nuisances on the left,” according to brainyquote.com

There is even a Facebook page called “People Against Our IDIOT President Obama”

It doesn’t surprise me that people would make these kinds of comments about our president. People have probably said similar things about every president. But what grieves me is when I hear Christians making these kinds of comments about our president, or posting comments like these on Facebook.

Peter told his readers to “honor everyone.” Then after exhorting them to “fear God,” he exhorted them to “honor the Emperor.” Do you know who the Emperor was when Peter wrote this? Nero. One of the most wicked tyrants in history. He executed opponents, persecuted Christians, and even killed his own mother. It is reported that he had Christians dipped in oil or wax, impaled them on poles, and set them on fire as torches. In the Circus Maximus, he often wrapped them in animal skins and threw them to lions or dogs that tore them apart in front of the spectators. Yet Peter told believers to honor this man.

We must honor those in power above us because God placed them there and gave them their authority. Paul said, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

Therefore, God calls us to honor President Obama. This does not mean we have like him or agree with anything he does or believe he is a good president. But we must honor him in our hearts and with our speech. For a believer in Jesus to call President Obama an idiot is a sin, not just against the president but against God.

Let me ask a question to those who complain and rant against the president. Do you pray for him as much as you criticize him?

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, and intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). God commands us to pray for our leaders. Do you?

God takes his word very seriously. If we dishonor the President there may be consequences in our lives for disobeying God’s command. These consequences will be worse than anything the president does to us by his policies.

So, honor Barack Obama. Whether you like him or not. Whether you agree with him or not. If you don’t know how to honor him, it would be better to say nothing and simply pray for him.


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


The Surprising Blessings that Overtake the Generous

One thing the “faith preachers” get right is this – if we bless others God will heap blessings on us.

Not because he has to, but because he has graciously promised to. It may not be in the way we expect; we might not always reap cash for cash. But we will definitely reap. The God who promised we won’t lose our reward for giving a cup of cold water to a disciple won’t fail to bless us when we bless others, especially to the poor.  Sooner or later, his blessings will overtake us like a tidal wave.

Here are a few reasons to give generously:

God promises you’ll be blessed for generosity to the needy.

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21)

God may bless you financially or he may simply fill you with joy. Hey, I’ll take joy any day of the week.

Light will break in your darkness

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. (Psalm 112:4-5)

After crying out to God in prayer and seeking God in his word, the best thing to do when in a dark situation is to give to others. God promises it will be well with a generous person.

God will bless your children.

He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)

Note this says our children “become” a blessing. It may not happen overnight. But in addition to continuing to pray for our children, give and keep giving, and pray for God to fulfill this promise.

God will protect, deliver, and restore you

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalm 41:1-3)

God will be honored

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

When we honor God, he honors us. He does this because generosity to those less fortunate reflects his gracious, generous character.

God considers your giving to the poor as a personal gift to him, which he will be faithful to repay.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

The poor won’t usually be able to pay us back, but God will make sure he does.

Others will water you

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:25)

You will reap in the same way you give.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

God will increase your capacity for every kind of good work.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)

God will enrich you to be increasingly generous.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Not only will we increase in generosity, but our blessing others will result in them giving thanks and praise to God.


Have I Lost My Salvation Because I Have Doubts?

I’ve known believers who have gone through dark nights of the soul. Periods of depression. Periods of doubt. At one time they strongly believed in Jesus, then went through a tragedy or fell into sin. As a result they questioned the reality of God, or slid into various “sloughs of despond” or struggled with doubts. I know someone who suffers with a bipolar disorder who for many years has wholeheartedly believed in and followed Jesus, but now at times is unsure if they will go to heaven. My own brother believed in Jesus and followed him for a significant period of time, then began to go through severe depression and doubts. Later, in his misery he took his life. Had he lost his salvation? Do others who doubt lose their salvation?

Let’s see what Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (JN 5.24)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. (JN 6.47)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (JN 3.16)

The disciple John stated his purpose in writing his gospel this way:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (JN 20.30-31)

When we believe in Jesus we HAVE eternal life. By believing we HAVE life in his name. We have passed from death to life. Once we have eternal life, we have it forever. We can’t lose it. We don’t pass from life back to death. We do not lose our eternal life if we struggle with doubts later.

John the Baptist clearly believed in Jesus. He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (JN 1.29). Then he said: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (32–34)

John the Baptist CLEARLY believed in Jesus. He knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He had visibly seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove. John had everlasting life. Yet, when he went through a dark period of his life after Herod imprisoned him, John began to doubt. He sent messengers to Jesus saying “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (MT 11.2). John was doubting. He was no longer sure if Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God who was to come. Had John lost his salvation? No! For he had believed and passed from death to life. He had believed and so received eternal life the moment he believed.

I know this raises lots of questions—more than I can address in a blog post. But here is a simple principle for interpreting Scripture: Start with the clear, then move to the unclear. It is absolutely clear in Scripture that when we believe in Jesus we have eternal life. When we have everlasting life we can’t lose it. Even if we doubt.

If you struggle with doubt, I would encourage you to pray. Ask Jesus to increase your faith. Ask Jesus to help you with your unbelief. He has been tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned. But he was surely tempted to doubt.  He’s anxious and eager to help us and he gives us faith and more faith.

(The main ideas of this post are taught in much more depth in Absolutely Free by Zane Hodges)


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.


My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal... It’s Not What You Think

In 1994 Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a book which encouraged every company to come up with BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, which they would attempt to accomplish in a certain time frame.

A few years ago a pastor friend of mine once told me that he and his leadership team had set a BHAG for their church for one year. I believe it was to double in size. They planned how to attract more people, how to double their small groups, double their small group leaders, children’s ministry, etc. I believe he encouraged his leaders and church members to have individual BHAGs. I can’t remember if they encouraged giving BHAGs. Of course, he had at least one personal BHAG.

“Did your church achieve the BHAG?” I asked.

“No,” he said laughing, “of course not. We didn’t even come close.”

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. PR 28.20

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” LK 16.10

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ LK 19.17

Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, who planted numerous churches and advanced the spread of Christianity in much of the known world of his time, didn’t consider himself to be great. He regarded himself as a servant, a steward, and said the following:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 CO 4.1–2

Paul wanted to be faithful. Sure he made plans—he planned to visit certain cities in the hope of spreading the gospel. But often his plans were thwarted. He wound up in prison. Yet even in prison he sought to be faithful and spread the gospel in the prison.

So, this year my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal is to be faithful in little. The works God gives most of us are ordinary and mundane. Caring for our children, pastoring a small church, teaching sixth graders, working on an assembly line, being a secretary—these certainly don’t feel glorious. But God isn’t impressed with talent or “great” accomplishments. He’s looking for faithfulness.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d encourage you to be faithful in a couple things. First, in taking in God’s word. To me, this is one of the most important habits to cultivate. If only for a few minutes each day, read or listen to the Bible. Secondly, prayer. Again, if you’re not in the habit, take a few minutes each day to pray. Spend a couple minutes in thankfulness and lift your requests to him. Of course, you can pray throughout the day as well.

Seek to be faithful where God has placed you. Faithfulness is more important than talent or gifting. If we’re faithful in small things, God will increase us and cause us to be faithful in more and more. We don’t have to set Big, Hairy, Audacious goals. Besides, who wants to do something that’s big and hairy?


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.


Forgive Each Other—Sounds Simple, Right? Wrong.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

God commands his children to forgive each another.  For this reason: He has forgiven our incalculable debt against him, so we should forgive those who sin against us. 

Seems straight ahead and simple, right? Maybe not quite so straight ahead and simple as it seems on the surface.

We live in a fallen world, and both Christians and non-Christians sin against each other. And very often in devastating ways. Sadly, even Christians fall into horrible sin at times and it can be life shattering when you are sinned against. Sin causes anguish, sadness, and misery. So when someone sins against you, I would not say you just quickly and flippantly say, Oh well, I forgive you, that’s ok. Everything back to normal.

If someone hurts or betrays us and then asks forgiveness, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about that sin and how it hurt us. It doesn’t mean we just brush it under the carpet and move on. Sin is devastating. It can take time to get to the place where we can forgive and restore the relationship.

There have been times in the past I have been too quick to encourage people to get together with someone who has sinned against them and grant forgiveness.

And forgiveness doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences. Certain sins might even involve calling the police, even though someone repents. If I go out and irresponsibly charge $20,000 on my credit card, then ask my wife’s forgiveness, even though she forgives me, I will have to pay that money back. I’ll have consequences for a long time. 

And even when we forgive someone, that doesn’t mean we must immediately trust them. Sin shatters trust. It can take a long time to earn trust again once it has been shattered.

Forgiving others takes the power of God. We can’t do it in our own strength. But Jesus can help us. If you are struggling with unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone, cry out to God to help you. Seek counsel, talk to a trusted mature Christian or your pastor. If you know someone was sinned against in a significant way, and worked through it and came to a place of forgiveness, get together with them and seek their insights.

Forgiveness and reconciliation should be a goal believers work toward for the glory of God. Colossians 3:13 says “you also MUST forgive.” Unforgiveness and bitterness aren’t options. We’re working out our lives together. I need you to forgive me when I sin against you, and I must forgive you as well because God has forgiven us in Christ. 


The Habit That Changed My Life

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5:18

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ EPH 5.20

Early in my Christian life my mother heard a teaching on giving thanks for everything. I was 23, out of work, and had recently moved back home. I was depressed and not very hopeful about my life.

I was incredulous. “Thank God for everything?” I asked. “Do you mean that I’m supposed to thank God if I have a flat tire?”

“Well, yes, because you don’t know but there might be an accident up the road that God prevented you from being in by letting you get that flat tire.”

I was skeptical, but decided to try to put my mom’s advice into practice and thank God for everything. It was the mid-summer and I was putting a patio in for my parents. As I lugged the large stones in the blazing sun I began to thank God. “Lord, thank you for how hot it is. Thank you for these stones. Thank you that I don’t have a job. Thank you that I had to move back home with my parents. Thank you for how miserable I am.”

I didn’t feel thankful. But I gave thanks out of sheer obedience to God’s word. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a habit that would change my life.

I remember another day many years later. I was playing basketball in the back yard with my son and twisted my ankle. As I sat on the asphalt basketball court it looked like someone had inserted a large sausage under the skin. My son stood there with eyes wide open. The thought went through my head—what kind of example would I show my son in my pain? So, I began to thank Jesus in the midst of my screaming pain. Later, a podiatrist told me it would’ve been better if I had broken my ankle, the sprain was so bad. During the following weeks I had many opportunities to practice thankfulness. One day when I was sliding into self-pity I caught myself, grabbed myself by the collar and began to thank the Lord. “Jesus, thank you that I sprained my ankle. Thank you that it was only one ankle I sprained and not both of them. Thank you that I did not have to go to Vietnam where many guys had their legs blown off by mines….”

By God’s grace I have sought to practice thankfulness in all kinds of circumstances. Not that I have done it perfectly, but God has helped me to give him thanks not only in times of blessing but even through tears and deep sadness.

I have learned that to give thanks in all circumstances doesn’t mean we thank him for the evil in those circumstances. But we can always thank him that despite the evil and pain we suffer, he is in control and he is loving and faithful and causes all things to work together for our good.

God doesn’t expect us to put on a smiley face and act like pain isn’t there. But he tells us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. When we do this, even through tears or pain we glorify him and he will bless us and reward us for it.

If you are thinking of resolutions or new habits you’d like to begin this coming year, I would suggest you put giving thanks at the top of your list if you aren’t doing it already. Thanking God in everything has made a huge difference in my life and I believe it will in yours as well.


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 Promises Every Parent Should Ask God to Fulfill

God doesn’t guarantee he will automatically save our children, but gives us many promises to inspire us to pray and believe him to answer.

I review these promises from God occasionally and use them as springboards for prayer for my descendants. For example:

Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

I might pray, “Lord Jesus, you have promised your people that all our children shall be taught by the Lord. Please do this! Please reveal yourself to all my children and grandchildren and descendants and bring each one into peace with you through your blood.” Consider using these promises as you pray for your children:

Isaiah 59:21 “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.”

Psalms 102:28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.

Psalms 112:1-2 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! 2 His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed

Isaiah 44:3-5 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.

Isaiah 61:8-9 …I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed.

Isaiah 65:23 They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.

Proverbs 20:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him.

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.

Jeremiah 32:39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.

Acts 16:31-33 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Don’t quit praying for your children until the day you go home to be with the Lord. Even if you don’t see them saved in your lifetime, God can still save them. Although he doesn’t guarantee they will be saved, he promises to hear our prayers, that the prayer of the upright is powerful and effective, and he gives us good reasons to believe he desires to save whole families.


Share Your Troubles with Others. But Don’t Forget to Do This…

It’s good to share your troubles with others. But don’t forget to connect your pain to Jesus.  Here’s what I mean:

I would not want anyone in our church to be fearful to talk about sad or painful things they are going through. Sometimes we hesitate to share our burdens because others can be quick to judge or give advice or tell us we should have more faith. Or we don’t talk about our suffering because we don’t want to burden others or sound like we’re complaining. So when someone sincerely inquires, we should tell them honestly what we’re going through.

Usually when people say, “Hi, how are you?” they’re not usually looking for us to give them an in-depth report. It’s just a greeting and all they are looking for is for us to reply, “Fine, how are you doing?” But when someone seriously inquires we should tell them. Be honest. If you’re in a lot of pain tell them. If you’re being tempted to fear tell them. Hopefully they will have compassion and genuinely want to bear your burden with you.

But when you talk about your struggles, from time to time connect them to Jesus. In other words bring Jesus into the picture. Try to express some kind of faith or trust in Jesus.

For example you might say, “Thanks for asking. I’ve really been hurting ever since the accident. The pain in my neck has been excruciating and nothing seems to help. But I just keep praying, and I believe Jesus is for me and working all this for my good.”

Or, “Our son is really doing poorly. He doesn’t appear to be saved. He’s gotten into drugs, and I am really sad and I’m really concerned about him. But I know Jesus loves him even more than I do, and I’m just continuing to pray that the Lord will save him.”

I’m not advocating putting on a fake smile and giving a robotic Pollyanna I feel good-I feel great-I feel wonderful kind of happy Christian response that doesn’t admit to suffering. Neither am I saying we should mention the Lord every single time someone asks us how we’re doing. But I think it’s good to make connections to Jesus and express our faith. Especially so in our private times with the Lord.

Years ago I spent a lot of time counseling an individual who had no problem pouring out complaints and talking about how miserable their life was. And I was sympathetic to this person’s afflictions as were many others. The only problem was this individual never seemed to connect their pain or struggles to Jesus. They never mentioned anything about believing that God is good or faithful or that he would use their suffering for his glory. They just constantly complained about their misery and how hard their life was.

Don’t fall off the horse on either side. Don’t try to bear your pain all alone. Share your pain. Especially when someone sincerely inquires. But connect your pain to Jesus from time to time. Join your faith in Jesus to your honest report of your suffering. Express both your pain and your trust 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.


12 Benefits of Afflictions

God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason.

He has wonderful purposes for all he does in us. God is the great artist who produces the ultimate masterpieces – sons and daughters in the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. So he makes every stroke of the Master’s brush, every tap of the Sculptor’s chisel count.

So in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times. If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.

Afflictions deliver us from pride. Paul said God gave him his grievous thorn “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” 2 Corinthians 12:7

Afflictions make us sympathetic, merciful and slower to judge. If you’ve suffered the fury of depression, you won’t assume that others who are depressed are in sin. If you’ve been grieved by a rebellious teen, you’ll be quick to sympathize with other struggling parents.

Afflictions remind us of the brevity of this life and make us long for heaven where our true treasure is. “When things go on much to our wish, our hearts are too prone to say, ‘It is good to be here!’” John Newton.

Afflictions stir us to pray and keep us dependent on God. Too many days of continuous sunshine and we can forget how much we need the Lord. But as thunderstorms make us run for shelter, so afflictions make us to run to our Refuge and Strength, and cry out like David, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalms 25:16

Afflictions are opportunities for Christ to display his power in us. As long as we can handle things in our own strength, we won’t see God’s power. It’s when the burden gets too massive for us to bear that Christ comes along and says, “Hey, let me take that from you” and reveals his universe-sustaining strength. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Afflictions drive us to God’s word. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalms 119:71. A life preserver doesn’t mean much to someone lounging in a deck chair reading a novel. But when the ship is sinking and one is adrift in the ocean that life preserver is everything. When we are sinking in affliction, we grab onto God’s promises and they uphold us.

Afflictions yield supernatural comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Afflictions prove the reality of God’s grace in our lives. How does someone endure years of sickness yet continue to be joyful? How does a wife lose her husband to cancer yet join the saints the following Sunday and lift her hands in worship? What makes a husband care for his Alzheimer-racked wife and continue to love God? God’s amazing grace! Endurance through afflictions is evidence we haven’t believed some empty philosophy or fable.

Afflictions make us thankful when God delivers us from them. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” Psalms 50:15.

Afflictions produce unique fruit that doesn’t grow in other soil. Fruit like faith, patience, perseverance, gentleness, long-suffering? By going through trials that require them.

Afflictions manifest God’s faithfulness and mighty sustaining power. “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.

Finally, afflictions make us like Christ. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us to his Son so that we can enjoy him forever. So ultimately, afflictions are for our eternal joy and gladness in Jesus


Ever Wish You Could Grow Wings and Just Fly Away?

Ever feel like David and just wish you could fly away?

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness PS 55:6–7

There have been times I’ve felt like that. I’ve wished I could sprout wings and fly far away. I’ve wished I could move to some distant town where nobody knew me, change my name, and start a new life. I’ve wished I could escape from problems and pain and sadness and dealing with people and hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

But there’s really no escaping sadness and pain in this life. There have been times I’ve felt like quitting. Felt like giving up my faith in Jesus. But every time I have, Jesus’ question to Peter and Peter’s answer comes ringing in my ears:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66–69

Where else would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. And I have come to know that he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Where else am I going to go? Back to the bars? Back to my life of sin? Back to the world—that broken empty well that promises happiness but never delivers? Am I going to go to some other religion? I can’t do that. I know the truth. Where else am I going to go? I know that Jesus is my only hope. As much pain as I might be in at the moment, I know that he is my only refuge.

It’s easy to have faith when things are going great. It’s easy to praise God and be thankful when all is going our way. But to trust and praise him in the midst of affliction brings him so much glory. When we suffer, especially in the midst of tragedy and intense pain, we can feel like doing what Job’s wife suggested: “Curse God and die.” Or we can respond like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I praise him.”

In my forty years as a Christian, I’ve seen believers respond to tragedy and tough times both ways. I’ve seen some become bitter, lose their faith, and stop following Jesus, saying, “How could a good God allow this? How could a loving God allow me to go through such pain? God didn’t answer my prayers. I believed in him but he didn’t come through.”

I’ve also seen believers go through horrific tragedies and yet despite unimaginable sadness, yet through their tears, still lift their voices to Jesus in praise and declare that Jesus is sovereign, wise, loving, and good. What glory they bring to God as they lift their hands in worship, even as tears stream down their cheeks. How they honor the Lord! I can’t wait to see the day when Jesus wipes every tear from their eyes and crowns them with glory. And if an angel standing by asks, “Why didn’t you give up on Jesus? Why did you keep praising and trusting him?” They’ll answer, “Where else would I have gone? Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God, my Lord, my King. He was my only hope.”

Where else are you going to go?

Jesus is the fountain of life. Every other “fountain” is an empty well. Every other road is a dead end. Pour out your grief to Jesus. Pour out your complaint to him. Ask him your questions. Ask him why you have to go through what you have to go through. Yet resolve to say, “Where else would I go, Jesus? You have the words of eternal life. You are my only hope.” Ask Jesus for comfort and peace. Ask him to bear your sadness. And ask him for grace to praise him in the midst of your affliction.

There’s nowhere else to go. So cling to the one whose everlasting arms of love are upholding you. Run to the one who truly knows your pain and longs to comfort you. Run to the one who is your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. Run to the one who has the words of eternal life.


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


2 Mistakes to Avoid When Facing Temptation

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

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

Mistake #1: Underestimate the power of temptation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake #2: Overestimate the power of temptation.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Blessed to Not be Blessed

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

Sometimes we’re blessed to not be blessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s something to praise him for.


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


The Rhythm of Thanks and Prayer

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

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

Psalm 100:4 tells us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


What to Do When You’re Engulfed by Darkness

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 Onandaga 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 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.