Motorcycle Underwear

10/31/2007

I'm eleven years old and I'm wearing underwear that's covered with little pictures of a man on a motorcycle. Being homeschooled, I'm always a bit behind on the fashion curve and I don't fully realize that it's not cool anymore to wear underwear with artwork on it. So I wear motorcycle underwear...to a Little League game. But this doesn't bother me because after all, who's going to see my underwear? Or so I think. What I don't realize is that my baseball pants are made of a partially see-through material that allows a careful observer to pick up on any underwear artwork. With normal drawers this wouldn't be a problem, but with motorcycle underwear, well that's another matter.

I don't realize my fatal mistake until one of my older, cooler teammates says, "What's on your underwear?" I play dumb, acting as if I don't know what he's talking about. Then he nails me. "There's motorcycles on your underwear! Hey guys check this out, Stephen's wearing motorcycle underwear." I try to play it off as funny but it doesn't work. I'm embarrassed and my face burns with shame. Needless to say, I never wear the motorcycle underwear again.

I wish I could say that the motorcycle underwear incident caused me the most shame of my life. But it didn't. There are sins in my past that I am truly and deeply ashamed of. Just the thought of these sins make me feel ashamed of myself. These are the sins I don't like talking about, sins I don't want my friends to find out about. It's these sins that prove that I'm not just a sinner, I'm a wicked sinner.

All of us have sins of this nature hiding in our pasts, like skeletons in a closet. All of us have committed wicked, ungodly, perverse sins that shame us before God and men. All of us are shameful sinners.

It's my shameful sin that makes the sacrifice of Christ so glorious. Jesus Christ, the perfect, holy One, took my shameful acts upon Himself. Christ never had so much as a sinful thought, yet He willingly bore all of my wicked, disgusting, shameful sin. God punished Christ as if He had done my shameful deeds. God looked upon Christ as if He was the shameful sinner. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: " For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Let your heart overflow with thankfulness to Jesus today. He bore your shame so that you can stand before God unashamed. How sweet is the sacrifice of Christ.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 11 comments  

Memories of Wickedness

10/30/2007

I'm not a handyman. When things break in my house I resort to one of two options: a) call somebody that knows how to fix it, or b) get out the duct tape. I recently repaired a kitchen drawer using approximately 812 feet of duct tape, but apparently I didn't use enough because the drawer broke again within a few days. So I did what any smart husband would do: I got more duct tape. But this time I also included a piece of cardboard to help support the drawer. The drawer is still in place, and I've instructed Jen to open it as if it contained a live hand grenade. The point is I don't do well with any sort of repair/construction work. But I do carry nails with me all the time. I carry them in my pocket. I carry the nails that pierced the hands of Christ.

I say the phrase "Jesus died for my sins," all the time. This is true, Christ died for all my sins. But I often forget that Christ died for very specific sins. Christ died for the arrogance and disrespect I showed my parents while growing up. He died for the fear of man that kept me from sharing the gospel with a friend. He died for the pride that kept me from listening to the wisdom of the other men on staff at the church. Jesus was crushed for the ungodly things I watched on television during my teenage years. Each of these sins was a nail in the hand of Christ, pinning Him to the cross. I carry the very nails of Christ in my pocket.

Isaiah 53:5 puts it this way, "But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." Aren't you grateful that Christ was wounded for your transgressions? Aren't you thankful that each one of your many sins has been forgiven? Ponder your past for a moment and remember some of the specific sins that you committed. Christ died for each one of those sins. Can you hear the nails rattling around in your pockets?

Today, take time to reflect on your sinful past, but don't stay there. As you remember your many sins, remember the Savior who died for each one of those sins, and let your heart be filled with gratefulness for His glorious sacrifice.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 6 comments  

Sinful Math

10/29/2007

I'm twenty five years old. If I've only sinned once a day since I was three years old that means I've sinned 8,030 times. If I've sinned twice a day, I've sinned 16,060 times. That's a frightening thought. Assume for just a moment that these numbers are accurate. Over the last twenty two years, I've broken God's law over 16,000 times. I've rejected God's ways, spit in God's face, and rebelled against the King of the Universe more than 16,000 times. I've told God to go His own way, to stay out of my life more than 16,000 times. I, a puny, insignificant creature have shaken my fist at my Maker over 16,000 times. And here's the scary part: I sin far more than twice a day.

How many times a day do I sin? I sin in my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. I sin with a lustful look, a hurtful word, an angry response. I sin when I worry over finances, or become angry with a friend, or am impatient with my spouse. I sin when I doubt the goodness of God, and when I crave the approval of others. My sin isn't infinite, but it sure seems that way. It's a vast, black, vile mountain. Piled upon this mountain is year after year of wicked sin. Sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of license and sins of legalism. Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15, "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." I think Paul had it wrong. I'm the foremost of sinners.

But O how sweet are the words of Isaiah 1:18, which says, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." My sins are uncountable, more numerous than the stars of heaven, and every one accuses me, rightly condemning me to hell. But the sacrifice of Christ is greater still. When God Himself died upon the cross, every single one of my 16,000+ sins was paid for in full. The cross is the mighty hammer that destroys my mountain of sin. The blood of Jesus is a mighty river that carries away every single one of my sins, removing them as far as the east is from the west. I am a great sinner, but I have a greater Savior.

So today I will rejoice in the glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I will rejoice that though my sins are many, He has washed me white as snow. Will you rejoice with me?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

An Opal Ring and a Piping Bullfinch

10/28/2007

Charles Spurgeon's wife was an invalid for many years and usually unable to accompany her husband on his travels. She writes: "One ever-recurring question when he had to leave me was, 'What can I bring you, wifey?' I seldom answered him by a request, for I had all things richly to enjoy, except health. But, one day, when he put the usual query, I said, playfully, 'I should like an opal ring, and a piping bullfinch!' He looked surprised, and rather amused; but simply replied, 'Ah, you know I cannot get those for you!'

Mrs. Spurgeon recalls how they "made merry" over her request for two or three days. Then one Thursday evening Charles returned from the church "with such a beaming face, and such love-lighted eyes, that I knew something had delighted him very much." He held in his hand a tiny box, from which he took a ring and placed it on her finger. "There is your opal ring, my darling," he said, and told her how he'd received it. An old lady whom Spurgeon had visited once when she was ill had sent a note to the church requesting that someone come and pick up a small gift for Mrs. Spurgeon. His secretary picked up the parcel and brought it to Charles, who unwrapped it to find the ring.

Mrs. Spurgeon writes, "How we talked of the Lord's tender love for His stricken child, and of His condescension in thus stooping to supply an unnecessary gratification to His dear servant's sick one...I can remember feeling that the Lord was very near to us."


Not long after that God surprised Mrs. Spurgeon again. She writes, "One evening, when my dear husband came from London, he brought a large package with him, and, uncovering it, disclosed a cage containing a lovely piping bullfinch!...He had been to see a dear friend of ours, whose husband was sick unto death; and, after commending the sufferer to God in prayer, Mrs. T-- said to him, 'I want you to take my pet bird to Mrs. Spurgeon, I would give him to none but her; his songs are too much for my poor husband in his weak state, and I know that 'Bully' will interest and amuse Mrs. Spurgeon in her loneliness while you are so much away from her.'

She writes, "When 'Bully' piped his pretty song, and took a hemp seed as a reward from the lips of his new mistress, there were eyes with joyful tears in them, and hearts overflowing with praise to God, in the little room by the sea that night; and the dear Pastor's comment was, 'I think you are one of your Heavenly Father's spoiled children, and He just gives you whatever you ask for."

Mrs. Spurgeon reminds us, "He who cares for all the works of His hand, cares with infinite tenderness for the children of His love, and thinks nothing which concerns them too small or too trivial to notice." She concluded this story saying, "'Bully's' sweet little life and ministry ended at Brighton; but the memory of the Lord's tenderness in giving him to me is a life-long treasure; and the opal ring glistens on my finger as I write this paragraph." (from The Full Harvest, The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon)

Let us thank our Heavenly Father for his intimate care. Jesus reminds us, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Mt. 7:11) What a loving Father we have! Bring all your needs and requests to him. Nothing's too small or too great to ask - he even gives his children opal rings and piping bullfinches.


Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 8 comments  

Waiting in Pain

10/27/2007

It was 1 a.m. when the neck spasm began.

Intense pain, slowly pulling my neck forward. I hauled myself out of bed, took some ibuprofen, and lay on the couch in the living room. The pain kept intensifying, my head drawing further toward my chest. By 2 a.m. I couldn't endure the pain any longer, so I grabbed the car keys and eased out my driveway toward the hospital.

If you've been to the emergency room lately you know it usually involves lots of waiting. It's my least favorite place to wait. You wait while they take your symptoms and insurance information. Then you wait in the examination room. Wait while they ask more questions about pain levels and insurance and medical history, your grades in elementary school, political affiliation, favorite bowler and patron saint.

By 4 a.m. I still hadn't received so much as an aspirin. My chin is practically touching my chest. I know that no human being has ever tasted such excruciating pain. What is taking so long? They must be flying the medicine here from New Zealand. Have they no mercy on the suffering? Am I in some kind of Edgar Allen Poe story? I'll tell you anything you want. Just let me have some medicine.

And then, outside my room, I hear someone say, "Hey guys, I'm gonna make a run for some burgers. Anybody want anything?" I'm incensed. You're going out for burgers while I'm writhing in agony in here? And then I hear laughter. They're laughing out there. Laughing. While I'm in here with an ice pick in my neck.

Finally, my painkiller came, about 30 minutes after the burgers.

Waiting in pain is no fun. Bob waited in pain for 16 years.

16 years ago, I got a call that Bob, a friend from church, had been life-flighted to Pittsburgh. He'd flipped a tractor, and fallen beneath it, sustaining many injuries, particularly to his back and head. God spared his life and eventually he came home to his family. But Bob never quite got back to normal. For 16 years Bob suffered constant excruciating headaches, neck and back pain.

Last May he'd sunk to the lowest point in his life. He was on the verge of despair when his wife Denise heard about a new treatment - injections into the back muscles that cause them to tighten, aligning the spine and relieving headaches. Bob was skeptical but began the treatment to please Denise. But now, after a few months of injections, Bob has been experiencing lasting relief from headaches for the first time since his accident. How thankful Bob and Denise are to God. What joy they are experiencing.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why was it good for Bob and Denise to wait? As they've waited, they've developed a deep trust and reliance on God. They've experienced the Lord's help and strength. For all these years, in addition to other ways he serves, whenever church families have moved, Bob's been on the point, leading the crews loading the moving vans. You never would have known his head was throbbing. I've never heard the slightest complaint escape his lips. Bob's one of the funniest guys in our church, with a great sense of humor and cheerful demeanor.

Bob and Denise have experienced Christ's grace in weakness, and found God to be a refuge and strength. God has built patience and perseverance into them. And now, because they have patiently waited, they've seen God's providence in providing healing through an unexpected avenue. Also, their patient waiting has made the answer to their prayers all the more sweet.

Is it good to wait quietly for the Lord? Ask Bob and Denise.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 9:31 AM 2 comments  

I Have it Worse than Anybody

10/26/2007

Last night I called an old friend. When he asked me how I was doing, I jokingly said Eyore-like, "I have it worse than anybody." This triggered about 15 minutes of sparring as to whose life is more miserable. He recently bought a house and lamented having so much "stuff" he just doesn't know where to put it. He can't figure out where to store his boat and his Corvette. His family and friends compounded his misery by giving him a ton of housewarming gifts.

"That's nothing," I said, "I have to live with myself in all my complexity and complicatedness." He had to concede - I have it worse than anybody.


The truth is, I have it better than most people. But in my sinfulness, I still often battle discontentment. God has many weapons in his arsenal to search and destroy this sin, but one of his best is making us wait.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why is it good to wait for the Lord? Because waiting is the soil where patience and contentment grow. And they are sweet when they bloom in our soul. How can we be content while waiting? By making Jesus Christ our portion, the one who satisfies us with his love as we wait for him and seek him. He gives us himself, the best thing he could possibly give us.

My mom first taught me a wonderful way to cultivate contentment while waiting. I was 23, jobless, broke and had just moved back home from an aborted attempt at making it as an artist in Philadelphia. She told me the Bible says to give thanks for everything. "For everything?" I blurted, "Even a flat tire? I'm supposed to thank God for a flat tire?" Mom said, "Yes, because up the road there's an accident that God spared you from by flattening your tire." So I tried it. I was building a patio for my parents. As I lugged flagstones in the summer heat, I said, "Lord, thank you for these stones. Thank you for this miserable heat. Thank you that I don't have any money. Thank you that I don't have a job. Thank you that I am stuck living here at home with my parents." Do you know what happened? I gradually began to experience joy and contentment in Christ. Though Jesus didn't immediately change my circumstances he began to change my heart.

Why not take a minute right now to give Jesus thanks for your life exactly as it is? Thank him for the stones and the heat and for having to wait for him. And ask him to be your portion.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Endless, bottomless, boundless grace

10/25/2007

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26

The secret to waiting is to delight in the Lord Jesus Christ as our portion, our joy, our satisfaction.

John Owen says, "Consider the endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in Christ, the God of Zion...we are too needy to be satisfied by a mere creature...in Christ there is a fulness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the sea...when the well of his humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible reservoir of his diety, who can possibly drain him dry?" (Communion with God, p.61)

The sun drenches the earth every day with heat and light, and is never exhausted. Jesus Christ is to believers a sun and a shield. We receive grace upon grace from him, and his reservoir remains filled to the brim. His mercies are infinite and overflowing. Though we have committed millions of sins against him, he washes all them away, and the ocean of his mercy is not drained in the least. He has inexhaustible supplies of love and grace and strength and joy for his beloved.

Jesus loves for those he has redeemed to come to him for grace. He delights in us, for he's become our husband and we are his bride. He never tires of hearing us, loving us, blessing us, filling us. He says, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it
" (Ps 81:10). He loves to hear us say Jesus, you are my portion. You're my joy, my satisfaction. All my delight is in you.

Come to the Fountain today. Come to Christ who is full of
endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion. Come and drink and be satisfied as you wait upon him.


Posted by Mark Altrogge at 7:14 AM 3 comments  

Murphy's Law or God's Law?

10/24/2007

When my Dad was in the army in World War II, waiting in line was a way of life. Waiting in line to get your paycheck, waiting in line for dinner, waiting to see the movies, waiting to get clothing and equipment. He waited in so many lines he promised himself that after the war he'd never wait in line again. Until he found himself back home, once again waiting in line, with my mother to see a movie.

We can't escape waiting, much as we'd like to. Murphy's law says that no matter what lane of traffic we switch to, the other goes faster. And how is it that the cashier who's never touched a cash register takes over as soon as I get in line? And I don't even want to mention waiting in airports. Waiting is part of our lives.

Waiting is part of our spiritual lives. Waiting isn't Murphy's Law but God's law. I'm waiting for him to heal family members. Waiting for him to change me and help me. Waiting for God to work in my children. Waiting for guidance.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Waiting is an act of faith. Because in waiting for the Lord, we are saying, Lord I trust in you. I hope in you. I have confidence that as I wait, you are being good to me and you are acting on my behalf. I'm trusting you for grace to come. Faith waits confidently for the Lord to fulfill his promises.

God's word is filled with promises of future blessings. Promises we must wait for. Promises for our children. Promises to give us all we need to glorify him. Promises to protect us and keep us. Promises we wait for in faith.

James exhorts us, Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains (5:7). Farmers wait in patient faith. They don't go out and dig up the seeds every day to check if they're growing. They trust that the rains have activated them underground and they're growing. There will be a harvest. That's how we wait for the promise of the Lord's coming. We don't see it, but something is happening. The Lord will come.

That's how we wait in faith for God. God is at work in my children. At work in me. Like the rain at work in the seeds in the ground. And someday there will be a harvest. While we are waiting, keep watering God's promises by prayer and thanksgiving. Ask God to fulfill his promises. And thank him that he will. Thank him for the grace that is coming.

Waiting is an act of faith. While we are waiting and trusting, God is working.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

I Want my Burger Now

10/23/2007

I hate to wait.

I'm such an American. I want my burger now. I don't even want to get out of my car for it. I want my kids to be godly this very second. After all, I've got things to do....

And yet I'm constantly being forced to wait. My doctor has a waiting room, which is always filled when I arrive, even if I schedule the first appointment of the day. As I write this, my van is at the repair shop, where for over a week it's been awaiting a new transmission. In the last year, I think I've spent more time waiting for my van to be repaired than actually driving it. Recently I had to make a number of calls to my insurance company and every time I had to wait for minutes on end before speaking to a real human person. And the day before yesterday my laptop kept crashing and I spent all morning booting and rebooting it up........gosh! I hate waiting!

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why is it good for believers to wait on the Lord?

One reason is because it humbles us. Waiting reminds us that the Lord is the center of the universe, not us. Waiting reminds us that we are dependent upon God and we must abide by his gracious will and timing. Waiting underscores our need for God. He controls all and we don't have control over anything.

Once when traveling to a nearby town, I hit every red light in a stretch of road. As I got impatient, God popped the thought into my head: What is it you're craving right now that is causing your grumbling? What is it you want that you aren't getting? I thought, "I want every light to turn green before I get to it. I want all creation to serve me and my plans. I want to be God." Pretty frightening, huh? I'm glad God is so patient with me. In his goodness to me, he regularly reminds me that I am but a tiny speck of dust who owes his complete existence to his Creator. Waiting can humble us, reminding us that we are creatures, dependent on God.

The servant waits for the master, not vice-versa. Servants wait for the master to tell them what to do; they don't give the orders. Waiting reminds us that we're servants.

Waiting for God is an act of humility, telling God that he's the only one who can help, provide, heal, strengthen and guide us.

If you're waiting on God for something, that 's good, because waiting can humble, and God gives grace to the humble. Why not thank him right now for your circumstances, and praise him that he is your sovereign King.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

I Thought My Bladder Might Explode

10/22/2007

It began with a cup of coffee for the road, as I headed out a few minutes late for the Pittsburgh airport. But daydreaming, I drove the wrong direction. I was probably wondering why cows always seem to face the same direction. Ten minutes into my drive I suddenly jolted into reality and realized I was heading east away from Pittsburgh. I found a turnaround and began hurtling west, but I'd lost at least 20 minutes, and I was going to be cutting it close.

About 45 minutes into the 2 hour trip to the airport, my bladder kicked in from the coffee. Normally, I'd stop somewhere, but since I was running late, I decided I'd push on to Pittsburgh. That's when I saw the sign: "Congestion next 5 miles". Waiting in the slow moving lanes I felt a twinge of anxiety along with increasing pressure from the coffee. Emerging from the congestion, I gunned it toward the airport, praying I'd make my plane.

I finally arrive. Now I'm dying from bladder pain. At the shuttle bus shelter I frantically press the button, smiling weakly at another traveler. Where's the bus? No bus in sight. I consider running to the terminal, but it's too far away. I'll never make it. I just have to wait. Finally, an eternity later, the bus appears.

Now waiting takes on epic dimensions. I'm almost hallucinating as the bus stops at every shelter in the parking lot. People board the shuttle in slow motion. I'm biting the inside of my cheeks to distract myself. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Arghhhh. Eons later, the bus pulls into the terminal, and dreamlike, I run inside to find the men's room. Mercifully, I made it.

Waiting is part of our lives, especially as believers.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why does the Lord tell us it is good for us to wait for him? Sometimes waiting seems hard and painful. Why can't I have whatever I want right now?

Scripture tells us that waiting helps us realize that "The Lord is my portion", that which most satisfies, that which gives true life and joy and fulfillment. The things we so crave in this life, even good things, are not a believer's portion. Only the Lord is. Since "the Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him." Not in the things I am waiting for.

It is good to wait, for as we do, we become increasingly aware that the Lord is the portion we most deeply long for. If we could get all we want, yet without God, we'd be truly bankrupt, miserable and hopeless. If God always responded the minute we asked, we'd greedily grab his gifts, run off to enjoy them, and forget the one who gave them. Waiting focuses our hearts on the Giver of the gifts we seek.

How about you? Are you waiting for God to heal you, or give you a job or a wife or some other answer to prayer?

As you are waiting, say to your loving Father, "Lord, you are my portion. I will hope in you. Thank you for making me wait. Teach me to be satisfied in you and you alone."

By the way, I made my plane.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 6 comments  

Baby Shots

10/21/2007

Here's how I've been spending my days lately. I love every minute of it!





Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 2:14 PM 0 comments  

Childish Prayers

10/20/2007

This quote by Charles Spurgeon is excellent. May we too pray childish prayers.

"When we were small children, we had a little plot of garden-ground, and we put our seeds into it. I well recollect how, the day after I had put in my seed, I went and scraped the soil away to see if it was not growing, as I expected it would have been after a day or so at the very longest, and I thought the time amazingly long before the seed would be able to make it appearance above the ground. 'That was childish,' you say. I know it was, but I wish you were as childish with regard to your prayers, that you would, when you have put them in the ground, go and see if they have sprung up; and if not at once - be not childish in refusing to wait till the appointed time comes - always go back and see if they have begun to sprout. If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is; He will come up to the mark of your thoughts, and according to your faith so shall it be done unto you."

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:16 AM 1 comments  

Thankful For Double Work Shifts

10/19/2007

I recently watched a inspiring/sad documentary called "God Grew Tired Of Us" (watch the trailer here), which follows the lives of several young men from Sudan. These men had been separated from their families by violence, and some of the boys had even seen their families executed before their very eyes. They had no hope of returning to Sudan, and very little hope of seeing their surviving family members again. But for a few, there was hope. A small handful of the boys were given the opportunity to move to the United States where they would work to establish a new life for themselves. In the United States they would get jobs, earn money, and perhaps even go to school.

At one point in the movie a young man named Jon Bul Dau finds out that some members of his family, including his mother, are still alive, living in another African country. Jon was planning on attending a local community college, but when he heard of his surviving family, he put his education to the side and threw himself into work, striving to save up enough money to bring his family to America. He worked two brutal jobs, spending a full, backbreaking day in a factory and then spending his evenings cooking hamburgers in a McDonald's. Yet what was Jon's response when asked about working double shifts every day? "It is wonderful, it is wonderful" he said. "It is generating income."

My heart was challenged by Jon's gratefulness. Colossians 2:7 commands us to be "...abounding in thanksgiving." Jon Bul Dau was clearly abounding in thanksgiving, even in the midst of miserable working conditions. He was working 16 hours a day at two mind-numbing, low-paying jobs, yet he was deeply grateful. Why? He realized what a blessing it was to make money. And the most challenging thing is, I'm not even sure if Jon Bul Dau is a Christian.

I work a mere eight hours a day and find myself complaining. I'm blessed with enough money to buy food and clothes, and to support my family, but I don't give thanks to God. I live a relatively pain-free life in the richest country on earth, yet my heart is quick to complain. Oh how I want to change in this area. I want to be abounding in thanksgiving for my job. When I go to work, I want my heart to overflow with joy, because I can provide for my family. There are billions of people around the world who would love to have my job, because it would allow them to put food in the bellies of their children. I want to thank God for providing for me.

When was the last time you thanked God for your job? When was the last time you rejoiced on your way to work? If you're a stay-at-home mom, when was the last time you rejoiced in your husband's job? We serve an incredibly generous God. Let's be abounding in thankfulness towards Him.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

I'm Surrounded By Dead People

10/18/2007

Did you ever realize that you're surrounded by dead people? Everywhere you turn, you see people that are literally dead. What exactly am I talking about? Hear the words of Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

This past weekend was homecoming at the local university, and as I saw one stone drunk college student after another stumble past my house, I was reminded that I'm surrounded by spiritually dead people. I saw hundreds of college students passionately indulging in sin, pursuing the very things that would make them unhappy, and I was reminded that this world is a spiritual morgue. The truth is, I'm surrounded by millions of people who are dead.

Which brings me to the question of the millennium: why am I alive? I too was once dead in my sins. I too was an object of the wrath of God, doomed to hell and destined to pursue the fleeting joys of this world. But for some reason God chose to save me. God breathed life into my spiritually dead soul, and made me spiritually alive.

I go into the grocery store and I give money to a dead cashier. I go out to dinner with my wife, and exchange pleasantries with a dead waiter. I talk to my neighbors...who are dead. But praise be to God, He made me alive. I will forever sing the praises of the One who made me alive. The only response to such grace is abundant gratefulness.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

I'm Grateful There's No Dinosaurs

10/17/2007

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always a special day in my family. It began with the legendary "Cowboy Breakfast". To understand the Cowboy Breakfast you must first understand that my dad placed a strong emphasis on manners around the table. He taught me to chew with my mouth closed, to avoid biting my fork, and even to break my bread in half before buttering it, which I'm not sure is a real manner at all. To this day I'm grateful that I learned good manners. But during the Cowboy Breakfast, all manners went out the window. We ate with our fingers, belched passionately, and chewed with our jaws hanging wide open. We ate like cowboys, and we loved it.

There is one Thanksgiving that I remember particularly well, not because of the breakfast but because of what happened after breakfast. Dad brought us all together in the living room and told us that we were going to make a list of all the things we were grateful for, and for the next twenty minutes we rattled off one thing after another. Many items appeared on that two-page list, but one topped them all. At one point my brother David, who was only about 5 at the time, announced that he was grateful that dinosaurs didn't come into the house. I'm sure you can see why he was grateful. Nobody, especially me, wants a T-Rex hanging out in the house.

I want my life to be like that list. Recently I read Colossians 2:6-7 which says, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." The words "abounding in thanksgiving" arrested me. I have so much to be grateful for, and yet I'm not abounding in thanksgiving. In fact, I'm often abounding in complaining. But I want that to change. I want to be abounding, overflowing, and bursting with thanks. I want thanks to God to be the natural response to His many blessings. I want to abound in thanksgiving for the gospel, my salvation, my house, my food, my wife, my daughter, my job, this country, my health, and the thousands of other blessings that I've received. And so by God's grace, I will grow in thanksgiving, starting today.

Do you abound in thanksgiving? Does thanks to God flow from your lips on a regular basis? Take time today to give thanks to God for specific blessings. Thank Him for saving you and delivering you from your sins. Thank Him for the glorious gospel. Join with me today in being abundantly thankful!

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

When God Doesn't Dry My Tears

10/16/2007

As I said yesterday, I hate hearing my baby cry. It rips my heart out. I want to run into her room and be the "hero dad", who comforts her, soothes her, and rocks her to sleep. But I don't usually do this. Why? Because it's not the best thing for her. We want her to learn how to fall asleep without being rocked by one of us, and so we let her cry. Sometimes she falls asleep quickly, other times it seems like she's playing games with us. We do our best not to cave. When she's crying, every fiber in my body is screaming at me, telling me to get in to her room and do something. A million thoughts are bouncing around in in my head: she's hot, she's cold, she spit up, she needs a new diaper, I should rock her, I should sing to her, I should tell her a joke, etc. But I know that we just changed her and fed her, so I let her cry. Why? Because I know what's best for her.

There are times in life when God allows us to cry as well, because He knows what's best for us. He sees the beginning and the end, and He knows what we need most. So He allows us to suffer for a time that we might be shaped into the image of Jesus Christ. He allows us to shed tears for a season that we might some day reap a harvest of great joy. The Apostle Paul knew something of this when He said in 2 Corinthians 1:9 -
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
There are times when God presses His hand heavy upon us so that we are forced to press into Him. He allows our strength to be stripped away so that we might cling to the God of all strength. He takes away earthly comforts so that we might know Him, the God of all comfort. Why does He do this? Why does He allow His children, whom He loves so intensely, to suffer? Because He knows what's best for them. Doctors often prescribe bitter pills, knowing that they will cure the disease. At times God prescribes the bitter pill of suffering for us, knowing that it will work a mighty good in the end.

Are you tasting the bitter pill of suffering right now? Be comforted, for God has prescribed this for you out of love. Every trial and pain comes from the hands of God, the hands that were pierced by nails to save you. Doctors don't love their patients, unless the patient happens to be one of their children. We are God's children, and that is a great comfort for our souls.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 7 comments  

Does God Hear My Baby?

10/15/2007

My little girl makes a variety of sounds. Some of them are amusing, some are odd, and some are adorable. For example, she always emits a long series of grunts and groans just prior to unloading a massive payload into her diaper. As she's falling asleep, she'll contentedly whimper for a while before drifting into deep sleep. There's one noise however, that pulls on my heartstrings like no other: her cry. I hate to hear my baby crying. When she's in her crib and I hear her sobbing her little heart out, I want to run into her room, pick her up, and tell her that everything is going to be okay. I want to hold her, soothe her, do whatever it takes to make her happy. When she's crying I feel compassion for her, and want to make sure that she's not cold, or hungry, or in pain. My ear is attentive to her cry.

My compassion for my daughter is just the faintest glimpse of God's compassion towards us. When we cry to Him, He hears us and is filled with compassion towards us. Psalm 34:17 says, "When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles."

What a sweet promise this is! When we cry for help, God doesn't turn a deaf ear. No, he hears us and he delivers us. God's ear is attentive to our cry, and when we cry out to Him, He runs to our rescue. He longs to comfort us, encourage us, and refresh us with His spirit. He longs to be gracious towards us and to show us compassion.

Isaiah 40:11 says, "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." Just as a shepherd cares for the sheep of His flock, so God cares for us. He hears our cry for help, and He responds by pouring out grace, mercy, and strength. We serve a God of great compassion who is listening for our cry.

Do you need grace from God today to raise young children? Cry out to our God who hears. Do you need grace to love your spouse? Call out to our compassionate God. Do you need strength to endure suffering? God is waiting to hear your cry, and waiting to show you His compassion.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:36 AM 1 comments  

Personal Humility Poster #2

10/14/2007

Here's another one to keep me humble:


Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 3:36 PM 0 comments  

My Personal Humility Poster

10/13/2007

We've all seen inspirational posters in the dentist's office. They're meant to inspire us to greater heights of achievement. But I don't need motivational posters, because I'm proud enough as it is. So I've come up with something called "humility posters", which will serve to humble me whenever I look at them. Perhaps you will find this helpful as well. Enjoy! For those who are wondering, I created this using a software called "Poster Forge".

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 11:49 AM 6 comments  

Was the Father Smiling?

10/12/2007

When in college, every Saturday after Thanksgiving, I played in the "Turkey Bowl" (the original and true Turkey Bowl, not one of the ten thousand played across the nation which are but cheap imitations). Before this collar-bone-cracking, skull-smashing game of tackle football, the 2 best players would pick their teams. I always knew I'd be chosen last, like I had some kind of disease they might catch from me if I were on their team. By the time the picks dwindled down to me, the captain with last pick would "choose" me with as much enthusiasm as if he'd just been asked to shovel a mountain of manure.

I'm glad God didn't choose his children with such "enthusiasm". I can see the Father smiling as he wrote
the names of his chosen ones in his book. He elected his own with joy and excitement, not in compulsion. He saved because it brought him pleasure and joy. God inscribed his children's names on his palms with a happy flourish. Jesus said it was his Father's pleasure to give his children the kingdom.

And can you imagine Jesus grumbling and dragging his feet about his role in the Father's rescue mission? "Alright, I guess I'll go if I really, really have to." No, I can't imagine it either. Jesus was delighted to do his Father's will. And even now, Jesus can't wait to enthrall us with his majesty and engulf us in his beauty. For he knows how much joy we'll receive from seeing his glory. He takes pleasure in our pleasure in him. Can you detect Jesus' excitement in the following words he spoke to his friends just before he died?

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God: believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." John 14:1-3 (ESV)

Recently my daughter Beth visited some friends for a couple weeks. Since we'd moved into our home, I'd never gotten around to remodeling her room, so when she left town I decided to bless her by doing an Extreme Room Makeover. I painted the walls in 2 colors she'd told me she liked. I bought a large
Schefflera plant and a stylish pot for it, as well as an elegant chrome watering can with a long, slender spout. I replaced the knobs on her dresser with a wild variety of knobs, from Celtic-looking knobs to pewter leaves. I built a cool bookshelf and an end table Frank Lloyd Wright would envy. Purchased sleek looking lamps. Hung a huge poster of a Mark Rothko painting (one of her favorite artists) above the dresser, placed an antique hope chest at the foot of her bed.

What surprised me was how excited I began to feel as I anticipated Beth's return.
The more I worked on her room, the more I wanted to add new delights for her. The more my joy welled up at the prospect of seeing her face when she opened the door.

And then I thought of Jesus preparing a place for us. What joy he must have in preparing a place for us and anticipating our homecoming! If I experienced such joy in preparing a room for my daughter, what gladness must Jesus feel as he waits to show us his glory.

How the Father must have been smiling when he wrote our names in heaven.

Why not take a moment and tell the Father how glad you are he chose you and thank Jesus for the wonder you anticipate when you look into the face of joy.

By the way, Beth really liked her room.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 9:19 AM 2 comments  

The Permanent Ink of Heaven

10/11/2007

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

When God writes someone’s name in heaven he will not erase it – ever.

When we adopted our son, RJ his name was written down on an official document as being my son. Before signing that paper, the judge asked me “Will you love RJ as your son, as much as any of your other children?” Of course I said yes. RJ is my son. His name is recorded, written down in an official court document as my son. I love him as my son. I won’t change my mind, ever. He will share in the inheritance with all my other children. He’ll get five bucks, just like each of my other children.

Having our names written in heaven means that they will never be erased. When we make reservations in hotels, we don’t worry about getting there and not having a room. They have our name written down. It doesn’t matter if we get stuck in traffic and get there late, our name is written down. A room has been reserved for us. I’ve never arrived at a hotel where I’d made a reservation to hear the desk clerk say, “You know, I had your name written down, but then I just decided to delete it.”

Things in heaven are permanent. God doesn’t change his mind. When he writes down our name he doesn’t come back later and rub it out.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16
God asks, Can you imagine a nursing mother forgetting her child? A mother has such an intense care for her baby she’d never forget that child. But it’s happened on rare occasions. But God says I will never forget my children, because he has engraved us on the palms of his hands.

When my wife Kristi really needs to remember something she needs to do, she writes it on her hand, because she’ll see it continually through the day. God has ENGRAVED US on his palms – this means he will NEVER FORGET US. We are continually before him. He never stops thinking of us, longing in love for us, not even for a second. What a reason to rejoice!

But what if I sin, what if I stumble and fall and disqualify myself from heaven?
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25
God has written believers’ names in heaven – he will keep us from stumbling and present us blameless before his glory – and he’ll do this with great joy. Glory to our God who has written our names in heaven! Praise him for transforming you to be like Christ.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 3:44 PM 0 comments  

God, the Stars, and Your Hair

10/10/2007

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus tells believers that as exciting as gifts or power may be, we should rejoice in our salvation. That our names are written in heaven. That God inscribed our names in heaven in eternity past, long before the dawn of creation, before the cherubim uttered their first cry of “Holy”.

Jesus told the disciples rejoice that your names, your individual names, are written in heaven. God didn’t choose a nameless mass of people, but he chose individuals, by name.

God hasn’t chosen to save a huge crowd he doesn’t know personally. It’s not like God says OK, everybody whose last names begin with A thru L may now come in. God chose and knows individually.

Is this too hard for God? Jesus said that not a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father. That every single hair on each one of our heads is numbered.

In Isaiah 40, God tells us that he brings out each individual star in heaven and calls each one by name and doesn’t lose track of a single one:
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:25-26
Think about it. God has named every individual star that exists. Scientists have estimated that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each one composed of hundreds of billions of stars. And there is not a single star that God has not named and does not remember.

God is intimately aware of each and every one of his children:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4
God knows you individually, intimately. He discerns your thoughts from afar and knows every word you’ll ever say before the words ever reach your tongue.

Every individual star. Every individual hair on our heads. Every sparrow. Every thought.

God wrote every individual believer’s name in heaven before the universe existed. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, rejoice in God today for choosing you and writing your name – your name - in heaven.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

Don't Rejoice In Your Power

10/09/2007

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

If you’re a believer, you’ve got power. Jesus blesses believers with grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. But we’re not to rejoice in power, gifts or success, we’re to rejoice in our salvation. Rejoice that God wrote your name in the Lamb’s book of life when he chose you in Christ in eternity past.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4
God inscribed our names in his registry before the foundation of the world, before creating the heavens, before flinging the galaxies across the sky. He chose us in the misty eons of eternity past, long before angels existed. God chose us before we were born, or had done anything good or bad.

Incredibly, God wrote our names in heaven knowing we’d rebel and reject him, and nail his Son to the cross. He also elected us fully aware that even after he saved us we would still sin.

God didn’t set his love on us because of anything worthy or desirable in us. For we were only wicked and rebellious. We were all running as hard as we could, hell-bent toward destruction when God said, “I’ll save that one, and that one, and this one too.”

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” For some reason found only in God he has loved us from all eternity.

This verse gives me great comfort. For if Jesus has loved me from all eternity, then he will continue his faithfulness and love toward me. He will love and keep me till the day I close my eyes in death. And when I open my eyes in heaven’s eternal morning, I’ll gaze upon the face of him who loved me with an everlasting love. And forever I will praise the One who wrote my name in heaven before I was born.

Does this encourage you? Take a moment and thank God for choosing you and saving you. Try to praise him throughout the day for loving you with an everlasting love.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

What To Do When You Cast Out A Demon

10/08/2007

Occasionally I take a walk in a cemetery located near our church building. Some of the tombstones date back to the Civil War and the Spanish American War. Some are so weathered and worn you can’t even make out the names. I’ve thought, That’s all that remains of that person’s life – a stone with the name wiped away. I’m glad God has written believers’ names where they can’t be wiped away.

In Luke 10:17, seventy-two disciples return pumped from a short-term mission trip, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”

Imagine one disciple interviewed by a sports reporter:
Reporter: “How did it feel today to be casting out those demons?”

Disciple: “It felt great man! You know those demons they were really tough, they didn’t want to come out of those people, but we came into their house to make a statement. We came in there real physical – we came to play. Every one of us gave a hundred and ten percent. Yeah, we’re lookin’ forward to the next time.”

Jesus responds: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you…” Jesus says, “Yes, I’ve given you power over the enemy, but don’t rejoice in this.” Don’t be glad if you can cast out demons or heal the sick. Don’t rejoice if God has gifted you or blessed your ministry. Even unbelievers can do works of power: On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mt. 7:22-23

Here’s what Jesus says we should be glad about: Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” If you have trusted in Christ, rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Not on some tombstone that will wear away. Not in some club’s membership book. Your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, never to be erased, never to be forgotten. Rejoice that God has saved you from your sins and adopted you into his family. Now THAT is something to be glad about. Why don’t you take a couple minutes right now and thank your heavenly Father for writing your name in heaven and sending his Son to save you.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 8 comments  

Spurgeon on 'Saved'

10/07/2007

Let this quote from Charles Spurgeon affect your heart this morning:

That one word 'saved' is enough to make the heart dance as long as life remains. “Saved!” Let us hang out our banners and set the bells ringing. Saved! What a sweet sound it is to the man who is wrecked and sees the vessel going down, but at that moment discovers that the lifeboat is near and will rescue him from the sinking ship. To be snatched from the devouring fire, or saved from fierce disease, just when the turning point has come, and death appears imminent, these are also occasions for crying out “Saved!” But to be rescued from sin and hell is a greater salvation still, and demands a louder joy. We will sing it in life and whisper it in death and chant it throughout eternity – saved by the Lord!

Have a wonderful Sunday.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 7:36 AM 0 comments  

When A Song Needs Revisions

10/05/2007

This is a song I wrote the other day and sent to Bob Kauflin for possible inclusion on the next project. Bob liked the song but suggested possibly writing a bridge. I agreed and also thought I would combine verses one and two into one verse and then write a second verse. I'll post the revised version as soon as I finish it. This is typical for a song being considered for an album. The song is reviewed, revisions are made, and then the song is reviewed again. This process could repeat itself several times.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 2:15 PM 8 comments  

Practical Ways of Meditating on God's Word

To meditate on God's word means to think about it, ponder it, roll it over in your mind, and try to apply it to every area of your life. But what does this look like practically? Here are a few practical ways to meditate on God's word.
  • Write as you read. Writing out my thoughts as I read my Bible has probably been the best thing I've ever done when it comes to meditating on the word of God. It forces me to carefully think through each verse, keeps me from being distracted as I read, and helps me clearly articulate my thoughts. When I get distracted, I can simply look at the last thing I wrote and pick up my train of thought where I left off. Here's some practical advice: get a journal and pen that makes it fun to write. Don't use a twenty cent Bic pen and sheet of construction paper. Go get yourself a Moleskine journal and a nice pen, it'll be worth it.
  • Pray as you read. Praying through God's word has also been extremely helpful for me. The Holy Spirit speaks to me as I'm reading scripture, and prayer is the only fitting response. For example, recently I read Colossians 1:13-14, which says, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." As I read these verses, my heart was filled with gratefulness to God for delivering me from darkness, leading me to pray prayers of grateful adoration. I didn't wait until after I was done reading to lift my voice in gratitude. I prayed as soon as I became aware of God speaking to me.
  • Memorize scripture. This is the area I've struggled the most in recent years. It feels really difficult, and even boring at times to memorize scripture. But in His kindness, God has recently shown me the need to memorize scripture, to store it away in my heart. So for the past month or so, I've started every devotional time by taking a few minutes to memorize a scripture, with the goal of memorizing one verse a week. What's been the effect of this? I now have the sweet truth of God stored away in my heart, ready for quick access in my time of need. When I'm weary, I remember that I can do all things through Christ. When I'm tempted to be proud, I remember that God is drawn to the humble. The Holy Spirit uses these verses to speak to me and convict me. Now I'm seeking to take these verses that I've memorized and meditate on them at the mundane points of the day, like when I'm falling asleep, or in the shower, or driving to work. I want to store God's word in my heart.
What about you? What are some practical things that have helped you to grow in meditating on God's word?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Stable In The Storm

10/04/2007

You can tell the substance of a person's character by how they respond to trials. My grandma, who is now with Christ in heaven, was a prime example of this. For sixteen years she endured terrible joint pain as a result of rheumatoid arthritis. Yet I never once heard her complain against God, or grumble under her affliction. She was always cheerful, always ready to sing a song, always ready to bless those around her. How did she maintain such joy in the midst of such pain? She began each morning in the same way: with a banana milkshake and the word of God. She rose at 6 AM to listen to the preached word of God, to read the word of God, and to listen to worship songs. My grandma was stable through the storms of life because she delighted in the Bible.

Psalm 1:1-4 says:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Notice the contrast in these verses. The righteous man is stable, like a tree planted by streams of water. The wicked on the other hand, are blown away by the storms of life, like chaff in the wind. The secret to spiritual stability is regular meditation on God's word.

Those who aren't rooted in the word of God are blown away by the trials of life. When a trial comes, they lose their peace, their marriage suffers, joy is nonexistent, and life itself becomes drudgery. On the other hand, those who have sunk their roots deep into the word of God flourish in the midst of trials. The word of God allows us to stand in the eye of the storm, to be at peace when life is dissolving around us.

I want spiritual stability. I know without a doubt that I'll suffer in this life, and I want to be prepared for that suffering. I want peace in the midst of suffering, to be able to rest in the midst of the storm. I don't want to be blown about by the trials that come my way. So I must meditate on the word of God. Every time I crack open my Bible, I am sinking my roots just a bit deeper into the soil of God's word. I am readying myself for the storm.

Do you want to flourish in the midst of suffering? Then sink your roots deep into God's word.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

WWJOS? (What Would Joel Osteen Say?)

10/03/2007

How does one live a spiritually prosperous life that pleases God? In his mega bestselling book "Your Best Life Now", Joel Osteen says that you need to, "Enlarge Your Vision, Develop a Healthy Self-Image, Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words, Let go of the Past, Find Strength Through Adversity, Live to Give, and Choose to Be Happy". As well meaning as Joel Osteen may be, I believe that he's got it wrong. Listen to Psalm 1:1-3:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Did you catch that last line? In all that he does, he prospers. This is incredible. The secret to living a spiritually prosperous life is before our very eyes. If I want to prosper spiritually, I must be regularly meditating on God's word. This is so simple, yet so profound!

I want to do well spiritually, don't you? I want to have a deep, soul-satisfying relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to overcome my sin. I hate my pride, my anxiety, my fear of man, and my selfishness, and I want to kill it. I want to be faithful to my wife until I die, and to raise my daughter in the fear of the Lord. Point blank, I want to prosper spiritually. But how do I get there? How do I get to this point? By meditating on God's word, day in and day out. By reading my Bible every morning, and memorizing scripture in the shower, and listening to sermons in the car, and reading books written by godly Christians. I must meditate on God's word.

The truth is, I won't grow if I'm not seeking to apply God's word to my life. But the good news is, God wants me to grow. He wants me to prosper spiritually, and to have a deep, vigorous relationship with Him. He doesn't want me to be blown about spiritually. And so He gave me a book, The Book.

Do I treasure The Book? Do I meditate on and memorize The Book? Is The Book precious to me? Take time to consider these questions today. I want to prosper spiritually, and so I want to know The Book.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 1 comments  

I Hate Growth Spurts

10/02/2007

Growth spurts are awkward things. At least they are for boys. The simple truth is that it's impossible to look cool during a growth spurt. First, your clothes don't fit right. All your pants are two inches too short and long sleeves tend to ride up around the elbows, giving you a slight hobo look. You no longer walk, you just gangle along, with arms and legs flying every direction. Growth spurts do weird things to your skin as well, and your once smooth baby-face is overrun by a minefield of pimples. Growth spurts are painful, which is why I'm glad they don't happen too often.

I do wish however, that I would experience more spiritual growth spurts. Most of the time my spiritual growth seems so painfully slow. I just wish I could overcome sin in one, explosive, life-changing moment, and be free of it forever. But as I've read the scriptures, I've come to see that the biblical pattern of spiritual growth is slow and steady. Listen to the words of Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The truth is, most spiritual growth is slow, and is the result of consistent meditation on and application of God's word. We long for quick spiritual growth, for mountain top moments when we encounter God and are instantly changed. We go to conferences and buy books in the hope of quickly overcoming our sin. But pay close attention to the word pictures used in this Psalm. The blessed man is like a tree planted by a stream of water. Spiritual growth is quiet and consistent, not quick and explosive, and it comes from regular meditation on God's word.

My dad has lived this Psalm for the past twenty-five years, and his life bears the fruit. He begins each morning in the Word of God, reading it, studying it, pondering it, and applying it to his life. The result? My dad is godly, full of joy, a spiritual rock, and a fruitful laborer for God. I want to be like my dad.

These verses should give us such hope! We have hope for change, hope for spiritual growth, hope for overcoming our sin. God doesn't want our spiritual lives to become stagnant, He wants to help us grow. He gave us His sacred word so that we might have a deep, soul-satisfying relationship with Him. Do you feel discouraged by a lack of growth in your life? This should give you new hope. If you take God's word to heart, you will grow. So by God's grace, let us resolve to make meditation on God's word a daily part of our lives. Do you desire to grow in godliness? The word of God is the key.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

Why I Practice Meditation

10/01/2007

I've discovered the secret to living a blessed life. After years of searching in every corner of the world, reading the writings of ancient mystics, and spending approximately two-thirds of my income on QVC, I've discovered the secret to being blessed. Actually, I've never done any of those things. I've never been outside North America, never read anything by a mystic, and never spent a dollar on QVC (although I would kill for George Foreman grill). I discovered the secret while laying on my bed, pondering the words of Psalm 1:1-2, which says:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
There it is, plain and simple, the secret to living a blessed life. If I want to be blessed, I must spend time meditating on the Word of God, so that I might apply God's word to my life. That's it, that's the secret. God has told us the secret to being blessed, and it's so gloriously simple it hurts.

There's a lot of people telling us how to live a blessed life. The world tells us that blessing is found in a good job, or lots of money, or a beach house, or three cars, or a good education, or in saving the environment, or in social justice, or in a thousand other things. But scripture is clear. Do you want to be blessed and experience the joy of knowing God Himself? Then meditating on God's word is essential. And we can't just do this once a month, or once a week on Sundays. The truth is, the more we meditate on God's word, the more blessing we'll experience.

What does it mean to meditate on God's word? It means to think about it, ponder it, roll it over in your mind, and try to apply it to every area of your life. It means taking each scripture and making every effort to understand and obey it.

Do I meditate on God's word day and night, as this Psalm calls me to do? No, but I want to. I want to experience God's blessing and joy. Do you want to experience that? Meditation is the key.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments