5 Symptoms Of A Proud Heart

8/31/2007

  • You get defensive at the first sign of criticism or correction. Proverbs 13:1 says, "A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." A humble man eagerly receives rebuke, correction, and criticism. I on the other hand, am quick to be defensive. What about you? When you receive correction from others at work, or at church, or in the family, how do you respond?
  • You are quick to speak and slow to listen. Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." I'm often not interested in others or what others have to say, but only in voicing my own opinion. The humble person on the other hand, is slow to speak and eager to hear the input and wisdom of others. When you're with other people, are you quick to voice your own opinion, or are you eager to hear the opinions of others?
  • You're convinced that you're always right. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." I'm very proud, which in turn causes me to be certain that I'm right in all situations, at all times. The humble person is keenly aware of their blind spots, and aware that they could be wrong. When a debate arises, are you convinced that your way is the right way?
  • You're quick to criticize and slow to encourage. I'm aware of people's deficiencies and unaware of God's grace at work in people's lives. The result? Much criticism and little encouragement. The humble person however can identify with Paul when he said, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Tim 1:15) Are you more aware of people's faults or the grace of God at work in their life?
  • You become overwhelmed when life gets chaotic. When life gets chaotic and I'm loaded down with responsibilities, I can be easily overwhelmed. Why? Because I'm self-sufficient. In my pride, I rely on my own strength to carry out my plans. However, when things get chaotic, I get anxious. The humble person depends on God to carry out and execute plans, and thus experiences God's peace.
I'm a proud man in desperate need of a Savior. How grateful I am that Christ died for my wicked arrogance.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 4 comments  

God Humiliated Me By Choosing Me

8/30/2007

My watch is precious to me. Okay, that sounded a bit too much like Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings". But it's true, I really do need my watch. I like to know the precise hour and minute so that I can be on time for meetings. I like to know what day of the month it is, and I like to use the timer function for taking power naps. Without my watch I feel somewhat lost, which is why I went into semi-panic when I recently lost my watch. For several days I racked my brains, trying to figure out where my precious timepiece had disappeared to. Finally, when I was about to abandon all hope of ever finding my watch again, I found it, and order was restored to my life.

The finding of my watch reminded me of a deep, profound, and humiliating truth: I never would have found God. Hear the words of Jesus from Luke 10:22:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Before Christ came looking for me, I was spiritually dead, and blind to the things of God. I wasn't looking for God, wasn't seeking Him out, wasn't trying to understand Him or His ways. I hated God and wanted nothing to do with Him. I was blind to the beauty of Christ, enslaved by the power of sin, and had no desire for the Savior. I was miserable, but didn't know it.

But oh how sweet the day when Christ came looking for me. He came to me while I was lying in the filth of my sin, washed me in His precious blood, and opened my eyes to the glory of God. He chose to reveal Himself to me. He chose to come looking for me. I didn't choose God and never would have. If it were up to me, I would have passionately pursued sin until the day I died. But in His kindness, Christ chose to reveal the Father to me.

How humiliating to be chosen by God. The fact that Christ chose me should crush any pride dwelling within me. Any spiritual success I have is the result of Christ's prior work within me. Any spiritual gifts I have are mine because Christ chose me. Any true joy I experience is because Jesus came looking for me. Any grace I experience is a free, undeserved gift. I have no room to boast, no room to brag. I'm humiliated, and it's a wonderful thing.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

How To Catch God's Eye

8/29/2007

Certain things catch my eye. The word "free" always catches my eye. Advertisements for Apple's iPhone catch my eye. Headlines containing the words "Pittsburgh Steelers" cause me to look twice. A person cruising by on a bright and shiny scooter is sure to get a second look. My wife always catches my eye.

There are certain things that catch God's eye as well. Hear these words from Isaiah 66:1-2
Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
What is it that catches God's eye? What is He drawn to and attracted by? It's not the most talented person, or the person with the highest GPA, or the most gifted worship leader, or the most talented athlete. God is drawn to the person who is humble, contrite, and trembles at His word. Do you see the significance of this passage? If we want to experience the grace of God we must passionately pursue a humble and contrite spirit.

What does this look like practically? How do we obtain a humble and contrite spirit? By trembling at God's word. The humble man knows that every time he reads his Bible, he is reading the sacred word of the living God. The humble man trembles at God's word by reading it regularly and acknowledging his desperate need for it. The humble man trembles at God's word by paying close attention to it and seeking to apply it to every area of his life. The humble man trembles at God's word by seeking to obey it rather than argue with it. The humble man trembles at God's word by loving God's word.

Do you tremble at God's word? Do you read it regularly, acknowledge your desperate need for it, and seek to obey it at all costs? Let us resolve today that we will seek to tremble at God's word. In doing so we will catch God's eye.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 5:18 PM 0 comments  

I Got Into A Fight

8/28/2007

I'm not much of a fighter. Yes, I have a punching bag in my basement, and yes I sing the "Rocky" theme song when I punch it, but in general I'm not a fighter. In high school, I never got into fights. Of course that was because I was home schooled, but if I had been in public school I don't think I would have gotten into fights. I like movies that have long, extended, manly fight scenes, such as "The Bourne Supremacy", but I could never do anything like that. But recently I did get into a fight, a fight with God as a matter of fact. I took on God as my opponent.

Several days ago I was in a meeting with my dad and the other pastor on staff at our church. During the meeting, the three of us were discussing the best way to approach a certain situation. My dad wanted to do it one way and I wanted to do it another way. My dad, who is significantly wiser than I am, had the better way. But in my pride, I was totally convinced that my way was the right way, and that he was being a fool for not seeing it my way. In reality, I was the fool. But God was kind enough to convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance, and now I see that my dad's way was indeed the better way.

James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." To say that I was proud during the pastoral meeting is a colossal understatement. I was massively arrogant. James tells me that God won't tolerate my pride. In fact, when I'm proud I am taking on God as my opponent. When I am proud I am engaging in a head to head battle with God Himself, for God opposes the proud. And I don't want God as my opponent.

The opposite of pride is humility, and it is to the humble that God gives grace. If I want to experience the grace of God I must be humble. Oh how I want to experience the grace of God! Do you want to experience the grace of God? Do want your daily experience to be one of experiencing God's grace? Then pursue humility. Pursue it daily, regularly, consistently. Meditate on this verse from James. Read C.J. Mahaney's book "Humility". Confess areas of pride to your spouse, friends, and pastors. If you do, you will experience the grace of God. Otherwise, you will have God as your opponent.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 4:12 PM 2 comments  

How I Went Blind

8/27/2007

I recently made a startling discovery: I'm blind. Oh I can still see things. I can see my scooter sitting in the church parking lot, the very essence of glory. I can see the haze in the air that causes me to burst into a sweaty mess the moment I step out of my air conditioned office. I can see that my little finger is bent kind of funny because I dislocated it playing softball last year. But the truth is, I'm blind.

Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." This proverb describes a person that is blinded by their pride, blinded to the point of being convinced that they're always right. This proverb perfectly describes me. Does it describe you?

Let me give you an example from my life. I recently had the privilege of preaching at my church. After my sermon, I asked my friend and fellow pastor, Joe, to give me input and suggestions for my message. In a kind and gentle way, Joe gave me several excellent suggestions as to how I might preach God's word more effectively. No big deal, right? Wrong. The moment Joe began speaking, my heart began to rage within me. I was convinced that I didn't need to hear what he was saying, didn't need his advice, didn't need any helpful suggestions. I can count the number of times I've preached on two hands, and Joe has preached many more times than I have. Yet I was thoroughly convinced that I had preached an outstanding message that had absolutely no room for improvement. I was blinded by my pride, and I was a fool.

Can you relate to me? Are you being a fool in any ways? How about at home? When your spouse or children or parents correct you, how do you respond? When they give you a suggestion, what is your initial reaction? Are you eager to listen, or quick to defend yourself? Do you invite correction, or raise barriers? How about at work? When a coworker suggests how you might improve a project, what goes on in your heart? Only a fool believes that he or she is always right. Don't be a fool like me.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 1 comments  

More Than I Ask Or Think

8/26/2007

The Lord's Day

O Lord My Lord,
This is thy day,
the heavenly ordinance of rest,
the open door of worship,
the record of Jesus' resurrection
the seal of the sabbath to come,
the when saints militant and triumphant
unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,
that here free favour reigns;
that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;
that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest
and find thee ready to hear,
waiting to be gracious,
inviting me to pour out my needs,
encouraging my desires,
promising to give more than I ask or think.

Taken from The Valley of Vision

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:16 AM 0 comments  

The Art of Spiritual Living

8/25/2007

Let these words of D. Martyn Lloyd Jones affect you today when you are tempted to feel despondent or discouraged.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down' - what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God' - instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 7:47 AM 1 comments  

5 Tips For Better Blog Reading

8/24/2007

As a follow up to yesterday's post, here are a few practical tips for better blog reading.

Clean Out Your Reader
If you're like me, you blog reader can become obscenely cluttered. I see a blog that looks mildly interesting, click on the 'subscribe' button, and "bang" (it really makes that noise) it shows up in my feed reader. The result? I end up with information overload. I'm forced to skim lots of blogs without really getting anything out of any of them. If this describes you, do a purge on your blog reader so that you're only focusing on blogs that are important to you. Currently my blog reader contains ten feeds, which is very manageable for me.

Do Some Real Reading
The tendency with blog reading is to skim, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, if blog reading is to have any real value in our life, we need to do some real reading. Find one or two well written, God-centered, Christ-exalting blogs and read them faithfully every day. For me this looks like reading Al Mohler's blog every day. Other possibilities: Challies, Between Two Worlds, Desiring God, Josh Harris.

Do Some Skim Reading
Okay, I know this sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but there is a place for skim reading blogs. I can do a quick skim of the blogs that really matter to me to see if there is anything that I should stop and read. And of course some blogs lend themselves to this more than others. For example, I subscribe to a number of 'productivity' blogs. It's easy to scan these for any useful information.

Subscribe To One Secular Blog
There are a number of blogs written by non-Christians that are a means of common grace to me. As I mentioned, I like reading blogs that focus on productivity. Most of these blogs aren't written by Christians, and yet by reading them I've gained some great ideas on how I can be more effective in serving the Lord. Using discernment, find one secular blog that you think will motivate or inspire you. Examples: Lifehacker, Life Remix (Note: I don't endorse all the content on these sites)

Take Everything With A Grain Of Salt
The blogosphere is full of opinions and ideas. Some are good, some are terrible, and some are heretical. Before you read a blog, read your Bible. By doing this you'll gain discernment, which will help you navigate the murky waters of the blogosphere.

These are just my opinions on blog reading. I hope you find them helpful...

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 1 comments  

7 Tips For Better Book Reading

8/23/2007

Bob Kauflin and Tim Challies recently wrote excellent posts on the place of reading in the life of a Christian and I would encourage you to read both posts. As a fellow lover of books, I thought I would add a couple of practical suggestions on what types of books to read. So here they are in no particular order.

Read Books By Dead People
We have a tendency to love what's new and current. We like books that talk about new ideas, books by new authors, and books with new covers. We're anxious to get the latest book by our favorite author. But in all our zeal for new books, we can miss out on the wisdom and insight of men and women that have been dead for hundreds of years. Hear the words of C.S. Lewis:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

We need to stand on the shoulders of men like Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and C.S. Lewis. They knew God in a way that few people today do. So read books by dead guys.

Find A Dead Historical Hero
Don't have a dead spiritual hero? Get one, and then read everything they wrote. Why should they be dead? Because, as John Piper says, that way they won't disappoint you. My dead spiritual heroes are Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis, and I'm slowly making my way through the vast number of books they've written. As I've read books by these men my soul has been fed and my love for God stirred.

Read Books Recommended By Godly Men
You can see C.J. Mahaney's recommended reading list here. The Discerning Reader has a number of similar lists on their site as well. Read these books!

Read Books That Make You Laugh
Humor and laughter are a gift from God, to be enjoyed for His glory. For a good laugh I recommend "Letters From A Nut" by Ted L. Nancy.

Read Biographies of Godly Men and Women
Few things stir my soul with fresh passion for God like a biography of a godly man or woman. When I read about the life of Charles Spurgeon, my heart is moved to love Jesus like he did. When I read about George Whitfield, I long to proclaim the gospel as he did. Get a good biography and let your heart be stirred by the example of a godly man or woman.

Read One Good Book Over and Over
Charles Spurgeon read "The Pilgrim's Progress" over 100 times during his life. Why? Because the truths found within the book gripped his soul. I want to emulate the example of Spurgeon. I want to find one book that sets my heart ablaze with love for God and then read it many times throughout my life. Consider doing the same.

Read "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Lord of the Rings"
Enough said.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 5 comments  

Me Versus Paul - Cage Match

8/22/2007

This is part three of "The Work of Christ" series.

The Apostle Paul would like to issue a challenge to anyone reading the book of Philippians. He would like to stack up his reasons for confidence in the flesh against your reasons for confidence in the flesh. Paul would like to engage with us in a battle royale, a cage match fight for the title of "Most Righteous According To The Law". Listen to what he wrote to the Philippians:

"If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless."

Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He tried to obey God's law with every fiber of His being. He killed people because he thought they were disrespecting and disobeying God's law. Paul made other Pharisees look like they were just playing at religion. I can almost hear him talking to me. "Stephen, you think you're impressive because you lead worship on a Sunday? You think God is impressed with you because you maintain a blog? You think you're pretty good because you read the Bible? Stephen, you've got nothing on me."

Then Paul says the most shocking words. He says, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ." Paul was willing to throw away all his works so that he might know Jesus Christ and be counted righteous in Him. Paul was willing to count all his hard work as garbage so that he might have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Paul knew that all of his good works were like putrid, stinking garbage compared to the glorious work of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that God was deeply pleased with obedience of Christ, not the obedience of Paul. And so Paul says, "I'll throw away everything I've ever done if I can have the righteousness of Jesus."

Friends, today let us join Paul. Let us throw aside any hope we have in ourselves, and cling to the righteous of Jesus Christ that was purchased for us on the cross. Paul knew that all his righteous deeds were filthy when laid side by side with perfect obedience of Christ. Do you feel the same way?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:45 AM 0 comments  

Paul Seriously Lacked Confidence

8/21/2007

This is part two of "The Work of Christ" series.

What would happen if you were in an accident and couldn't read your Bible, or attend church, or fellowship with the saints for two months? What would happen if you were bedridden for the rest of your life and could no longer participate in "your ministry". How would you feel if you couldn't write, or teach children's ministry, or sing on a worship team, or preach, or go on missions trips for the rest of your life? Would your confidence in God's love for you waver? Would you wonder if God was still pleased with you?

I recently read Philippians 3:3 and was forced to ask myself those same questions. It says, "For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh..." I'm strongly tempted to put my confidence in the flesh, or in other words, in the things that I do. If I read my Bible every day during the week, and post some encouraging things on this blog, and don't waste too much time watching television, and encourage at least one person in my small group, and serve my wife, than I feel pretty confident that God approves of me. But if I fail to do these things my confidence in God's love and approval can waver.

As I read Philippians 3:3, I was forced to ask myself, "Where is my confidence? Is it in myself, or in the glorious, finished, complete work of Christ?" The Apostle Paul refused to put confidence in himself. Paul, the charismatic church planter, the author of large portions of the New Testament, refused to trust in anything he accomplished to bring him into the favor of God. Paul rejected his own works and trusted passionately, joyfully, and wholeheartedly in the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. This was Paul's only hope for salvation and it is our only hope as well.

Friends, let us emulate Paul. Let us reject any hope we have in our good works and place our hope fully on the perfect work of Christ. Throw aside any hope you have in your works and cling to the cross of Christ. God isn't pleased with you because of your serving, or preaching, or blogging, or encouraging, or Bible reading. He is pleased with you because He is pleased with Christ.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:19 AM 0 comments  

I'm A Smuggler

8/20/2007

Okay, I've got a confession to make: I'm a smuggler. There, I said it. I got it off my chest. No, I'm not a drug smuggler, I don't smuggle illegal immigrants across the border, and I don't smuggle candy into movie theaters (at least not anymore). I'm not like my Star Wars hero, Han Solo, smuggling illegal contraband through Imperial blockades. But I am a smuggler, and on a daily basis for that matter. I'm a works smuggler.

What exactly am I talking about? Listen to the words of Sinclair Ferguson and see if you can relate: "Our greatest temptation and mistake is to try to smuggle character into God’s work of grace." This is a very accurate description of me. On a daily basis I'm tempted to "smuggle" my works into the justifying work of God. I'm tempted to try and add my works of righteousness to the finished, perfect work of Jesus Christ. I'm tempted to believe that I can make myself more righteous in God's eyes by my spiritual performance. This, my friends, is a temptation that each of us faces on a daily basis, and we must fight against it if we are to please Christ.

How can you tell if you are a works smuggler? Take a moment and answer these questions:

  • Do you feel that God accepts and delights in you more if you perform spiritual acts, such as reading your Bible, memorizing scripture, or praying?
  • When you are convicted of sin, do you include works as part of your repentance? For example, after sinning, do you feel that you must pray for at least an hour to get back in God's good graces? Or do you feel like you need to read your Bible to get "clean" again?
  • Do you always feel like you're disappointing God, and that you can never make Him happy?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're a works smuggler, or in scriptural terms, a legalist. You believe, in action if not in thought, that you can add to the finished work of Christ. Friends, legalism is a serious sin. It says in essence, that what Jesus did on the cross wasn't enough, and that you need to add your works to the finished work of Christ. God hates legalism.

This week we are going to be taking time to meditate on the finished work of Christ for the purpose of defeating legalism. We are going to ponder all that Christ has done so that we might freshly experience the joy of our salvation. We are going to give up our career in works smuggling and fling ourselves wholly on the mercy of God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Free Sermon Downloads

8/19/2007

Sermon downloads are now free at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Here are some must listen sermons from C.J. Mahaney:

A Biblical Understanding of Sleep - C.J. Mahaney. Click here to get it.

Cravings and Conflict - C.J. Mahaney. Click here to get it.

Enjoying Grace and Detecting Legalism - C.J. Mahaney. Click here to get it.

The Main Thing (Part 1) - C.J. Mahaney. Click here to get it.

The Main Thing (Part 2) - C.J. Mahaney. Click here to get it.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 1:40 PM 2 comments  

Super Bowl Commercial - Beard Comb over

As you can tell, I'm on a Super Bowl commercial kick. This was one of my favorites this past year.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 1:38 PM 0 comments  

Weekend Reader Survey

8/18/2007

What has been one strategy that has helped you effectively memorize scripture?

I'm trying to get in the habit of memorizing scripture and would like to hear what has worked best for you.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 11:10 AM 2 comments  

Super Bowl Commercial - Terry Tate Office Linebacker

This is one of my favorites...

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:31 AM 0 comments  

Superbowl Commercial - Sprint crime deterrent phone

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:28 AM 0 comments  

Five Prayers to Pray on Sunday

8/17/2007

This is part five in the "Preparing For Sunday" series.

Here are five examples of prayers you can pray to help prepare your heart for Sunday. We serve an incredibly gracious God who is eager to answer these prayers.

  • Saturday night: "Oh Lord, please give me the gift of sleep right now, that I might awake refreshed and ready to meet with you. Give me the strength to rise early for the purpose of preparing my heart."
  • Sunday morning before church: "Lord, open my eyes right now to see wonderful things in Your word. Fill me with Your Spirit now as I ready myself for church. Prepare my heart to sing songs of praise. Give me a soft heart to hear and apply Your word as it is preached."
  • As the singing begins: "Lord draw my heart upward in worship to You. Warm my heart with affections for you, and guard me from singing with my lips but having a cold heart."
  • As the preaching begins: "Lord give me a tender heart towards Your word. Let Your glorious truth grip my heart, and open my eyes to see Your glory. Guard me from the temptation of hearing Your word without applying it. Help me to listen with humility."
  • At the conclusion of the service: "Lord give me grace now to fellowship with Your saints. My heart is selfish and would rather go home and sleep. Let me feel the very affection of Christ Jesus for these people. Help me to encourage them and build their faith for Your glory."

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:52 AM 1 comments  

Pay Close Attention

8/16/2007

This is part four in the "Preparing For Sunday" series.

I had some teachers in college who were absolutely horrendous. They set world records for boringness, and I think they even bored themselves. They droned on and on in a monotone voice about things that mattered very little to me, such as the annual rainfall in Belize, or the formation of cumulus clouds (as you can see I had a weather class I disliked very much). By the end of each lecture, 90% of the class was either sleeping or had that glazed over look that comes with stupefying boredom. Paying attention was certainly optional.

But friends, paying attention to the preaching of God's word is never optional. Hear the words of Jesus in Mark 4:24, "And he said to them, 'Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.'" The preaching of God's word is a sacred, holy thing, and if we are to please God we must pay close attention to it.

Listening to God's word being preached is not the same as listening to a lecture on biology. A lecture on biology makes no claim on our lives. We have the option of applying or disregarding what we hear. But God's word always makes massive claims on our lives. God's word is always calling us to something, whether that be faith, repentance, joy, thankfulness, or humility. We don't have the option of applying God's word; we must apply God's word.

Another difference between a biology lecture and the preaching of God's word is the teacher himself. A biology teacher has been commissioned by a university to communicate information. A preacher has been commissioned by God Himself to proclaim glorious, life-changing, soul-stirring truth. When we fail to pay attention to the preached word, we fail to pay attention to God Himself.

So by God's grace, let us resolve to pay attention to the preaching of God's word. Let's do whatever is necessary to pay attention. Take notes, don't take notes, sit in the front, sit in the back, sit with other people, sit by yourself. Do what it takes to pay attention to the preaching of God's word, so that you might apply the truth to your life.

Friends, I have failed in this area so many times, yet I'm confident that God will help me change by His grace. He wants us to change more than we want to change, and He is eager to give us the grace that is necessary.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:19 AM 3 comments  

Meet With God First

8/15/2007

This is part three of the "Preparing For Sunday" series.

It's 7:42 on a Sunday morning, the birds are chirping outside, and you don't have to be at church until 10:00 am. You crawl out of bed, slide your feet into a pair of slippers, and wander downstairs to make a cup of coffee. After making your cup of morning wake-up-juice, you grab the newspaper off the front porch and settle down to read the arts and entertainment section. From there you move casually to the sports section, the food section, and finally the obituaries. By this time it's 8:49 am, and you have just enough time to hop into the shower, grab an onion bagel (and some mints), and head for church. Worship starts at exactly 10:01 am, and it's at that point you have your first thought about God that day.

Sound familiar? I've been through that routine many times. The result is that I arrive at church unprepared to meet with God. My heart is distracted, my thoughts are scattered, and I never fully engage during the service. But there is an alternative. To properly prepare for Sunday, we must meet with God before we meet with God. To prepare our hearts for corporate worship, we must spend time in private worship. It's crucial that we spend time in God's word and in prayer before we leave for church. Why? Because the battle with sin begins the moment we step out of bed on Sunday morning.

Our sinful flesh doesn't like church. No, let me rephrase. Our flesh hates church. Our sinful flesh is opposed to everything that is good and spiritual, and will make every effort to stop us from encountering God on Sunday morning. Our sinful hearts will try to condemn us during worship, distract us during the preaching of God's word, and keep us from fellowship after the service. And so we must prepare for this battle by meeting with God in His word and prayer. We must have our hearts refreshed and focused even before we worship corporately.

And so friends, let us prepare for Sunday mornings. Let's avoid the temptation to check our email or read the headlines, and let's make a concerted effort to meet with God before we meet with God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:31 AM 0 comments  

Sleep Matters

8/14/2007

This is part two of the "Preparing For Sunday" series.

Nothing is worse than fighting to stay awake during a sermon. In terms of pure, unadulterated misery, it ranks right up there with poison ivy, sunburn, and listening to the band Petra (no offense to all you Petra fans). Your eyelids feel like they're being weighed down by dumb bells, and your head begins to droop, ever so slowly, until your chin touches your chest. Then you catch yourself dozing, your head snaps back into place, and you take a quick look around to make sure no one caught you sleeping. A friend of mine once said that if he's falling asleep in a sermon, he just lets himself go, then gets the CD. That might be wise advice.

But why is it that we often find ourselves fighting sleep on a Sunday morning? Why is it that we struggle to pay attention as God's sacred word is being preached? Because we don't make hearing God's word a priority. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." Friends, we desperately need the word of God so that we might be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness. We need to hear the sacred word of God preached by men who have been called by God. Our faith will flounder and falter if we are not regularly hearing the preaching of God's word. The battle against sin is won using the weapon of God's word, and we must be taught to how to wield the Word.

But the battle doesn't start on Sunday morning when we sit down to hear a sermon. The battle begins Saturday night when we choose to go to bed. Saturday night isn't a night to stay up late and watch movies or chat with friends. If we are to honor God and and pay close attention to His word, we must get sleep, and lots of it. God isn't honored when we simply show up to church and then zone out during the sermon. He's honored when we go to bed early so that we might be alert and ready to hear God's word.

I've failed in this area many times, but by the grace of God I desire to grow. Let us resolve to sleep early on Saturday night that we might treasure the word of God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:51 PM 2 comments  

Sunday is Sacred

8/13/2007

See if you can relate to the following scenario. It's Sunday morning and church starts at 10:00 am. Because I was out absurdly late the night before, I don't wake up until 9:00 am, which leaves me just enough time to take a shower, gulp down a cup of coffee, and eat breakfast before leaving for church. I arrive at church in a bad mood for two reasons. First, because I'm exhausted after the previous night's escapades, and second, because I got into a heated argument with a family member on the way to church.

The worship leader invites the congregation to enter into worship. Enter into worship? I'm ready to enter a boxing ring. By the second song I'm feeling really guilty about the argument and don't really feel like singing. Things don't go any better during the sermon. I'm distracted by the fact that the preacher keeps lifting his eyebrow in an odd manner. I begin a tally, and by the end of the sermon have counted 72 eyebrow lifts. It's only when the preacher concludes with prayer that I realize I didn't get a thing out of the sermon. I leave church feeling frustrated, discouraged, and ready for a nap. Unfortunately, I think this is a common experience for many of us.

Sunday is a sacred day. Not because it's the seventh day of the week or because observing the Sabbath will hasten the return of the Lord. Sunday is sacred because we get to sing corporate praises to God, fellowship with other believers, and above all else, hear the precious word of God preached. Yet how little we prepare for Sundays. In the Old Testament, the people of God prepared for sacred days, they consecrated themselves. There were special rituals of washing and cleansing that each person had to perform before being allowed to participate in the sacred day.

We're not bound by the same rituals and laws the Israelites were, but there are still ways we should be preparing for the sacred day of Sunday. There are certain things we can do to prepare our hearts for participation in corporate worship and listening to God's word. We can ready ourselves for the sacred day of Sunday.

For the next several days we will be looking at ways to prepare for Sunday, so as to receive maximum benefit from the Sunday meeting. By God's grace, we will grow in our love for the day of Sunday and grow our love for the church.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

Cowboys Herding Cats

8/12/2007

This is my other favorite commercial

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 1:09 PM 0 comments  

Home Loan Happiness

This is possibly one of my favorite commercials

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 1:04 PM 0 comments  

Interviews

8/11/2007

Some friends of mine were kind enough to interview me and my dad regarding our worship CD which was just released.

Read the interview with Tim Challies here. Read the interview with Bob Kauflin here.

The ladies over at Girl Talk were also kind to review the CD. You can read the review here.

I'm really honored that these folks cared enough to promote the CD on their blog. If you want to find out more about the CD you can go to the Sovereign Grace Ministries store. There you can buy the CD, watch a video interview with me and my dad, and see some various photos that were taken during the recording process.

I hope you enjoy it!

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:42 AM 0 comments  

Weekend Reader Survey

8/10/2007

Now is your chance to voice your opinion:

If you could spend one day in the company of any living Christian, who would it be and why?

Post a comment in response!

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 12:32 PM 7 comments  

He Rules The World...Wide Web

As of July 13th, 2007, I have sent 269 emails. Some of them were profound, some of them were profoundly stupid. Through these emails I was able to encourage people, maintain friendships, mock close friends, tell my wife I love her, and communicate messages to large groups of people. I love email. I'm so grateful for it, and I honestly am not quite sure how I functioned without it. Did I ever get anything of value accomplished before email? Possibly, but not likely. Yes, I realize some of you despise email and would rather have major surgery than check your email, but not me. I love it.

Ponder for a moment the incredible blessing of technology, and especially the Internet. Because of the Internet, I can listen to every sermon ever given by John Piper, read a blog written by Bob Kauflin, and find out what it means when it feels like my stomach is about to explode (via WebMD). I can communicate quickly and efficiently via email, do international phone calls for free with Skype, and send pictures to my family. I can put money into my bank account, pay off my credit card, and give money to the poor through organizations like World Vision.

Isn't God kind to give us the gift of technology? Friends, right now you are experiencing the gift of technology. God did not have to give us this gift. There are millions of people throughout the world who don't have access to email or the internet, and in turn don't have access to the wonderful resources that we do. But we serve an extravagantly generous God, who, because of the cross, is eager to pour out blessings on us.

As you surf the web, or check your email, or read blogs, or edit digital photos, give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful gift of technology. Thank Him for giving you access to thousands of outstanding Christian resources via the web. Thank Him for giving you the convenience of sending email and the pleasure of reading the news online. We serve a kind God. Let us give thanks.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

I Would Have Hated You

8/09/2007

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit..." - Titus 3:3-5

I have some incredible friends (you know who you are). I simply love spending time with these guys. We laugh together, we laugh at each other, we play video games together, we eat wings together, we encourage one another, we correct one another, we bear one another's burdens, and we experience true fellowship together. I treasure the friendship of each of these men. They are a gift to me.

But the truth is, apart from Christ's redemptive work in my life, I would not enjoy fellowship with these men. In fact, I would hate them, and they would hate me. I wouldn't want to be with them. There would be no sweet fellowship, no encouragement, no correction. Just hatred.

But oh how sweet is the power of the gospel. When Christ saved me, all my relationships changed. First and foremost, my relationship with God Himself changed. I was once an enemy of God, now I'm His beloved child. I was once a God hater, now I'm a God lover. I was under the furious wrath of God. Now I know nothing but love.

My relationships with others changed as well. The Spirit of God causes me to experience sweet, soul-satisfying fellowship with other Christians. Where as once I would have despised spending time with other Christians, now I long for it and treasure it. Prior to conversion, my sinful pride would have caused me to isolate myself from others. Now the Spirit of God moves me to bring others into my life. And to top it all off, God gives me friends who I absolutely love spending time with.

Isn't God kind to us? When was the last time that you thanked God for a specific friendship? When was the last time that you expressed your gratefulness to God for the people in your life? The next time you find yourself enjoying an evening with friends, pause for a moment and lift a prayer of gratitude to our generous God. We deserve Hell, instead He gave us friends.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:20 AM 2 comments  

The Blessing of Ibuprofen

8/08/2007

I had a bad headache recently. You know the kind I'm talking about. You're head throbs, your temples pulse, and all you want to do is lay down on the couch. Headaches of this sort can be debilitating, forcing you to bed until the pain finally passes. Headaches are miserable.

But there is a wonderful little pill called Ibuprofen that does incredible things. Within hours of taking three Ibuprofen, my headache was gone, a distant memory of a less pleasurable time. And Ibuprofen is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the medicines available to me. At any given pharmacy I can purchase medicine that will relieve heartburn, prevent cuts from becoming infected, clear nasal congestion, help me sleep, keep me awake, reduce the length of a cold, kill a fever, and on and on. There is a medicine for virtually every sickness that I face.

Friends, medicine is a wonderful gift from an incredibly generous God. The truth is, we deserve pain. In fact, because of our sin, we deserve hell. God has no need to spare us from the pains that so often rack our bodies. We deserve our infections, and colds, and allergies, and headaches, and sore throats, and joint pains. Yet we serve an astonishingly kind and tender God who gives us medicine to relieve our pain. Oh what a blessing it is to take Tylenol! He doesn't owe us relief from our pain, yet in His generosity He supplies us with pain relievers.

The next time you take medicine, lift your heart in gratitude to the God who provided it. Thank Him for His incredible kindness and mercy in providing relief from pain. Each Ibuprofen you swallow is a gift from God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:22 AM 0 comments  

Coldplay and the Cross

8/07/2007

In the summer of 2005 I saw the band Coldplay in concert, and it was the best concert I've ever seen. Coldplay is not a Christian band, and I don't endorse all their lyrics, but I love their music. God has given Chris Martin (lead singer, songwriter) the gift of melody and song. He has given Chris the ability to combine notes in ways that stir my heart and grip my emotions. Listening to Coldplay brings me much pleasure and serves as an inspiration for my songwriting as well. And listening to Coldplay is an opportunity for me to thank God for the glorious gift of music.

Friends, music is a gift from our extravagantly lavish God. Think of how music affects your life. When you hear a good song, you hum along, you bob your head, and you drum the beat on your steering wheel. You lift your voice in loud song as you accompany whatever music you are listening to at the time. A beautiful melody fills you with joy, a driving beat energizes you, a simple melody makes you smile.

Music connects us with other people. We love to talk about our favorite bands, to play music together, to go to concerts together, and in some cases, to do karaoke together. In church we sing our praises to God together with the other members of our church.

Our culture is obsessed with music. We listen to music on our iPod, our cell phone, our satellite radio, our internet radio, and our good old-fashioned radio. Yet how often do we give thanks to God for the gift of music? I honestly can't remember the last time I thanked God for the pleasure of listening to Coldplay, or David Crowder, or Mozart, or Matt Redman. God has been so kind to give me music, yet I thank Him so infrequently for that gift.

Friends, let us resolve to thank God for the gift of music. The next time you pop in your headphones, pause for a moment and lift thanks to the Giver of music. Rejoice in the gift of music and lift praise to the Author of all music.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:18 AM 1 comments  

Me and My Scooter

8/06/2007




Here are pictures of me and my speed machine...

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 1:05 PM 6 comments  

The Scooter and The Cross

I have a new hobby: scooter riding. And yes, I realize that I just revealed what an extraordinary dork I am. But I don't care. I love riding my new scooter. It's blue, shiny, has a 50cc engine, and tops out at 40 mph, if I've got a good tailwind. I love the feeling of the wind blowing in my face, the pavement sliding along beneath me, and the bugs pinging off my helmet. I love the fact that it costs me $3.08 to fill up with gas and will ride for a week on one tank. I love the fact that I wear a helmet that resembles something out of the movie "Spaceballs", only slightly larger. I love just riding with no particular destination. I love my hobby.

On a recent ride, I was reflecting on God's kindness to give me such a pleasurable hobby. I don't deserve the joy that I experience when riding my scooter. I don't deserve the feeling of pure pleasure that comes as I cruise around the countryside. My sins merit wrath, furious, holy, unending, miserable, wrath. With my first sin, I forfeited all rights to any pleasure and any joy.

And yet because of the cross, I can enjoy riding my scooter as a gift from my extravagantly generous Father. The cross brings me into a new, beautiful relationship with God, where He is my loving Father and I am His child. Before conversion, I could not enjoy scooter riding (or any other good thing) as a gift from my Father. But now, because the blood of Jesus reconciles me to God, I can enjoy my scooter, and all my other hobbies as precious gifts from a generous God.

What hobbies do you enjoy? Photography? Hiking? Movie watching? Writing? Do you enjoy your hobbies as gifts from the Father? Are you full of gratefulness to our incredibly generous God? He has given us hobbies to enjoy because He deeply love us. As you enjoy your hobby today, take time to thank the glorious God who gives such pleasure.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:01 AM 6 comments  

The Best Free Christian Resources On The Web

8/05/2007

I'm trying to compile a list of free Christian Resources on the Web. This is a dynamic list, so feel free to add to it by posting a comment.

Desiring God has the majority of John Piper's books available online. Get them here.

Desiring God also has hundreds of dynamite sermons by Piper. Get them here.

All the messages from the New Attitude conference along with accompanying videos can be downloaded here.

Ravi Zacharias ministries has a wonderful collection of audio and video resources, including the Richard Dawkins and Alistair McGrath debates on the existence of God. Get them here.

Think you're smart? Try reading some Al Mohler articles.

You can read some of the giants of the Christian faith thanks to our friend Google.com. For example:
- Augustine
- John Bunyan
- Charles Spurgeon

Download free music from Sovereign Grace Ministries:
- Let Your Kingdom Come
- All I Really Need
- Across The Great Divide (remix)
- Hope Has Come

Download Dave Harvey's booklet on Missiology here, his booklet on church leadership here, his booklet on the call to ministry here, and C.J. Mahaney's booklet on election here.

Download "Why Small Groups" here, "How Can I Change" here, "This Great Salvation" here, "Disciplines for Life" here, and "The Rich Single Life" here.

Randy Alcorn has loads of free resources on the Eternal Perspective Ministries website. Get them all here.

The website LibriVox.org has many free audio books for download. A quick search showed John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and G.K. Chesterton

I didn't even scratch the surface on the amount of free stuff out there. Please feel free to add to this list.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 4:03 PM 2 comments  

afro ninja

8/04/2007

The more you watch this the funnier it gets.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 10:18 PM 1 comments  

Phil Keaggy - Shades of Green

This is talent used for the glory of God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:13 AM 2 comments  

Weekend Reader Survey

8/03/2007

I'd like to implement a new feature: the weekend survey. The thing about a blog is that you only get to listen to me run my mouth. Well, I want to hear from you and get to know you better. So here is the weekend survey question:

If you could only own one book other than the Bible, what would it be?

Post a comment as a response.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:24 AM 12 comments  

The Gift of Sleep

Have you ever not been able to sleep? It's miserable. You lie awake in bed, watching the hours slide by, knowing that you're going to feel like a large piece of dirt in the morning. The next day you walk around in a semi-catatonic state, struggling to string together more than two coherent thoughts and guzzling coffee to keep from falling asleep at the keyboard. And things only get worse if you can't sleep the next night either.

The Bible talks about sleep. In Psalm 127:2 we read: " It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Sleep is a gift from a very kind God to undeserving sinners. Ponder for a moment the pleasures of sleep. How delightful it is to drift off into sleep after a hard day of work. How glorious it is to be refreshed and recharged after a full night of sleep. The health benefits of sleep are numerous and the dangers of neglecting sleep are many. Sleep also provides us with fresh perspective each morning. There are many times when I've gone to bed worried about a particular circumstance in my life. When I wake the next morning however, I find that my perspective has changed, and that what terrified me the night before no longer appears so ominous.

Friends, God is so kind to give us the gift of sleep. He bestows it upon us because He deeply loves us. Yet I often fall asleep without so much a word of thanks to the One who gives sleep. I slumber without a word of gratitude to the One who never slumbers. I want that to change. Will you seek to change with me? Before you fall asleep tonight, pause, and lift a prayer of thanks to God. Thank Him for the glorious gift of sleep, and then close your eyes for the glory of God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

The Gift of Coffee

8/02/2007

My morning routine begins the same way every day. My alarm sounds at approximately 6:30 a.m., pulling me out of sweet dreamland and into the real world. Not wanting to wake my pregnant wife, I slap the alarm into silence and then struggle to open my eyes. The heaviness in my arms and legs makes me wonder for a few, brief moments if I was doing strenuous lifting in my sleep. Then I crawl out of bed and stumble my way into the shower. The shower helps wash the sleep from my brain, but my mind doesn't truly kick into gear until I take my first sip of coffee.

I love coffee. I love the beautiful brown color, the powerful, earthy aroma, and the semi-bitter taste of a well brewed cup. I love the feel of the hot liquid washing down my throat. I get much pleasure and joy from the simple act of drinking a cup of coffee. Yet how often do I thank God for the gift of coffee? He didn't need to give me coffee. He could have made everything bland and unexciting to the taste, but He didn't. In His kindness and creativity, He created coffee for the enjoyment of billions of people, including me. We serve an extravagantly generous God who loves to give extravagant gifts to those He created. Coffee is one of those gifts.

I have the opportunity to worship God with each cup of coffee that I drink. How? Colossians 3:17 makes it clear. It says, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." We can drink coffee for the glory of God if our drinking is accompanied by thanksgiving to God. What a simple, yet profound thought. Each cup of coffee can be an occasion for worship and thanksgiving to God!

Let us give thanks to God today for the simple pleasure of drinking coffee. Or, if you're not a coffee fan, thank God for the other pleasures He allows you to enjoy. Let us give thanks for coffee, and orange juice, and bagels, and Frappucino's, and mocha lattes. In doing so, we will bring honor to God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 4 comments  

How To Not Waste Your Efforts

8/01/2007

"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." - 127:1-2

I'm a go-get-'em kind of guy. Once I get an idea in my head, I want to take action, to start turning my idea into reality. I don't like waiting around for things to happen, I like making things happen. It also bothers me when someone responds to one of my ideas by saying, "Why don't you think and pray about it for a little bit?" I don't want to think or pray, I want to do! I guess that's why I'm a sucker for the book Getting Things Done, which revolves around the concept of identifying next action steps and moving projects forward. I'm sure that some of you can identify with me.

But as I've grown in the Lord I've started to notice some major, sinful flaws in my "go-getter" attitude. First, it fosters self-sufficiency. A failure to pray about decisions is evidence that I'm sinfully self-sufficient. It shows that I'm quite confident in my own ability to make wise decisions, and don't feel the need to appeal to God for wisdom. A lack of prayer shows that I'm supremely confident in my own ability to make and execute my plans. A lack of prayer is wicked and displeasing to the Lord. Second, the "go-getter" attitude can create a breeding ground for pride and arrogance. It leads to a "look at what I've accomplished" attitude. As a go-getter, I feel pride in the things that I've accomplished and the plans that I've made a reality.

How do we avoid these temptations? Psalm 127 makes it quite clear. God is pleased when we are dependent on him. He's pleased when we acknowledge our desperate need for Him. All success comes from the Lord, and therefore all praise should go to the Lord. Scripture informs us that unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labor in vain. Friend, what are you building in your life? A career? A family? A business? A marriage? The truth is, you will not succeed apart from God's power at work in your life.

Friends, let us seek to honor God by acknowledging our dependence on Him today. As you seek to build your family, or business, or career, or marriage, cry out to God for help. Honor Him by being dependent on Him.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments