How To Meditate On God's Word


The word 'meditation' is a pretty cool word these days. Everybody is in to meditation. A lot of productivity websites say that when you feel burned out it's really helpful to take a 'meditation break'. Recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show (yeah, yeah I was watching Oprah) a guy named Dr. Oz (no relation to the wizard) said that meditation can significantly lengthen your life. Meditation isn't just for Tibetan monks wearing burlap robes that chafe their armpits. No, everybody loves meditation.

The truth is, the Bible is big on meditation as well. Psalm 1:2 says of the godly man, "... his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." Which brings me to the question: what exactly is meditation? According to our culture, meditation is the relaxation of the mind to the point where little or no thought occurs. But according to scripture, meditation is the increased focus of the mind with much deep thought occurring. The goal of secular meditation is to empty the mind, the goal of godly meditation is to fill the mind with God's truth. To put it in a succinct definition, godly meditation is the practice of filling the mind with God's word for the purpose of applying God's word.

So how do we meditate on God's word? What does this look like practically? Here's just a few suggestions.

Meditate Prayerfully
When we read the Bible, we're not just reading a book - we're reading the sacred word of God. The Bible is the very words of God, given to us that we might know him, love him, and obey him. Which means that we simply can't understand the Bible apart from the enlightening power of God's spirit. We must have God open our eyes to understand and apply the glorious truths that we read in scripture. Apart from the spirit of God our devotional times will be dry, listless, and fruitless. Before you read God's word, pray that God would give you understanding.

Meditate Quietly
It's difficult to give deep, concentrated thought to a passage of scripture if you're surrounded by distractions. I realize that this isn't the case for everyone, but for most of us effective meditation on God's word occurs in quiet places. If you're trying to do your devotional time in the middle of Starbuck's, you might be selling yourself short. I find that my most effective times of biblical meditation come in the quiet of the early morning, before my day is rolling. Psalm 131:2 says, "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." Effective meditation usually happens in the stillness.

Meditate Vocally
Just because you're in a quiet place doesn't mean that you need to be quiet. God speaks to us when we read scripture and it's often appropriate to respond vocally to God's promptings. Take for example, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." When I read this verse, I want to respond out loud to God with rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving. Scripture isn't a dry textbook, it's the living word of God. We must interact with scripture, responding to it's commands, rejoicing in it's promises, and delighting in its revelations.

Meditate With Pen In Hand
I first heard of this from John Piper, who said the following:

"A pastor will not be able to feed his flock rich and challenging insight into God's word unless he becomes a disciplined thinker. But almost none of us does this by nature. We must train ourselves to do it. And one of the best ways to train ourselves to think about what we read is to read with pen in hand and to write down a train of thought that comes to mind. Without this, we simply cannot sustain a sequence of questions and answers long enough to come to penetrating conclusions"

The practice of writing down my thoughts as I read my Bible has had a transforming effect on my devotional times. Writing forces me to think through each verse, and to trace the logic of each passage. It helps me to fight distraction and to focus all my attention on the words before me. Go out and get yourself a Moleskine journal and start writing as you read.

What about you? What helps you to meditate on God's word? What suggestions can you give to others who are seeking to grow in meditating on God's word?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 6 comments  

Expand Your Prayer Life (4): Truck Caps and Daily Bread


I used to think that God was so busy managing the cosmos, he didn't have time for my peewee concerns.

I thought that if I asked him for money to pay the bills, he'd shout down at me, "Can't you see I'm directing the destinies of nations? Away with you and your petty requests."

Jesus taught us that when we pray we should make our Father's honor and kingdom our first concerns. But our Father who is both rich and generous also wants us to bring our daily needs to him.

In Luke 11:3 Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread". What could be more down to earth than bread?

R. Kent Hughes says, “We are not to use the Niemann Marcus catalog as our daily devotional guide. One of the sweet realities of our prayer life is that God cares about the simple, day-to-day needs of life. He cares whether his children are warm, fed, and housed. He is concerned for our well-being, including those things necessary to maintain a whole, happy family.”

God doesn’t limit us to praying for big things – he invites us to ask him for a new coat or new tires, money for groceries or tuition or vacation.

Here is an amazing truth: God gets glory by meeting our smallest needs. God's sign reads: "No job too big, no job too small."

My friend Bob bought a "new" used truck. His previous truck bed was 7 feet long but the new one was 6. This rendered his 7-foot truck cap 1 foot too long for his new truck. So he prayed about the situation. The audacity - praying about a truck cap. Doesn't God have enough on his mind without being bothered about Bob's truck cap? One day Bob saw a truck pull into the parking lot where he works. He noticed that the cap on that truck's 7-foot bed was a foot too short. So Bob approached the man, whom he'd never met, to ask him if he'd be interested in a swap. Amazingly, both Bob's cap and this man's cap were the same brand and both fairly new. They were able to trade caps and each fit perfectly.

One of the ladies at a "Caring Sisters" party in our church shared how the Lord used her sister in Christ to give her very specific gifts that she had secretly desired, but could not afford. Among them: a pair of earrings on the day she came to church with none on; a new watch when she hoped for one; and a spoon rest after a fleeting desire for one had crossed her mind in her kitchen that week. God gave her a spoon rest! How specifically and tenderly the Lord cares for us! And if he provides these material things, think how eager He is to meet us in our souls. (Thanks to Sarah B for sharing this).

We need daily provisions of wisdom, strength, joy. God invites us to make our requests known to him and bring our needs to him. So seek first God's glory and his kingdom, then ask him for whatever you need each day. And watch him provide!

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 0 comments  

When God Applies Bandages


In Psalm 147:3-4 we read, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names."

I have to admit, when I read these verses I was astonished. This was a picture of God I hadn't encountered before. The stark contrast between the two verses astonished me. Think about these verses for a moment with me.

Verse 4 tells us that God determines the number of the stars. There are billions of galaxies spread across the universe and within each of these galaxies there are billions of stars. Each of these stars is blazing with brilliant light and blazing heat. We are tiny and weak compared to a star. And there are billions upon billions of stars.

Yet God knows the exact number of stars, and He gives to each star a name. Ponder this truth. God knows each star individually, and He gives a name to each star. How great is our God! Most studies show that humans can only hold between five and seven things in their mind at one time. God holds all the stars in His mind, and He gives each one a name. Do you feel the greatness of God? When you look at the night sky, do you feel the immensity of God?

But we don't just serve a great God, we serve a tender God. The Psalmist tells us that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. God cares about those who are brokenhearted. Our great, infinite, awesome God, cares about our sadness. This is astonishing. The God who keeps the planets in orbit is the one who binds up our wounds. God is infinitely great, and God is infinitely tender.

Let us worship God for his greatness and love him for his tenderness. He is the one who heals our sadness and repairs our broken hearts. Our almighty God is the one who gently binds our wounds. How can we not love such a God? How can we not find all our joy in such a God? Today let us worship our great and tender God.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 4 comments  

Expand Your Prayer Life (3): Bring Your Rule


When we pray, we're tempted to start dumping our needs on God, like a scene from the movie "What About Bob" - "Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need." I'm glad that our Father isn't like the movie's Dr. Leo Marvin, always trying to get rid of us. Our Father, who is both rich and generous, invites us to bring our needs and desires to him.

When Jesus taught the "Lord's Prayer", he encouraged us to seek God's interests first, instead of always beginning with our laundry list of requests. Jesus instructed us to begin by "hallowing" or honoring our Father's Name - to worship him for all that he is and does - and pray that his name be glorified in all the earth. And one of the primary ways God is glorified is by the coming of his kingdom.

That's why Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come." (Luke 11:2). As God's kingdom comes, he is seen as great, powerful, merciful and glorious.

God's kingdom is his rule. When we pray for his kingdom to come we pray that our Father would bring his rule into the world, particularly into people's hearts and lives. When God saves us, he begins to rule us. And as he rules us, he transforms us into the likeness of Christ, and he is glorified.

Let's pray that
the gospel will spread and
multitudes of sinners will be saved. Let's ask the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers. Let's pray for the salvation of our family members and friends. And pray that our Lord will rescue thousands in our localities.

Let's pray that God will bring an end to the wickedness of the wicked.
Pray that he will remove governments and leaders that persecute his people and replace them with those favorable to the gospel.

Let's pray for the persecuted church. Pray that God will cause many of his saints to find favor in their captors' eyes and get to return to their families. Pray that our Father will give those who continue to suffer strength, joy, hope and the grace to love their persecutors.

When we pray for these things we are praying for God's kingdom rule to come.

Put God's interests first and he will provide for you.

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

If we put God and his rule first, he'll take care of our needs like food and clothing. I always figure that if I spend time praying for God's concerns and don't get around to mine, my Father will take care of me. And he's always been faithful.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Links For Your Pleasure


In my various wanderings about the WWW (that's shorthand for the World Wide Web), I've come across the following interesting links.

A company called Compass Cinema has put out a DVD Bible study tool called Modern Parables, which attempt to bring the parables of Jesus into today's world. These DVD's were reviewed very positively by Carolyn McCulley, Justin Taylor, and Tim Challies. You can check out their website by clicking here.

Sovereign Grace Ministries
has announced that for the month of February all their CD's are six bucks and have free shipping. For the price of a Big Mac value meal you can get music that will feed your soul. Check out the details on Bob Kauflin's blog.

The Billy Graham Association has a great article on how John Piper's son, Abraham, came to the Lord after years of rebellion. Click here to read it.

Winter is the time for sledding, and this do it yourself website tells you how to make the ultimate sled. Learn how by clicking here.

Got a camera phone but have no idea what to do with it? Here are some interesting uses for your camera cell phone.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 2:08 PM 1 comments  

Quick Spiritual Fixes


I like quick fixes. When something breaks in my house I do two things. First, I decide if we really needed the item in the first place. If not, I toss it. Quick fix. If this item really was of some importance, such as a large piece of furniture, a stove, or a kitchen table, I determine if the item can be repaired using duct tape. I have been known to use upwards of two hundred yards of duct tape on home repair projects. Quick fix number two. If it can't be fixed using duct tape I call in the pros.

I like quick spiritual fixes as well. When I'm struggling with a sin, I want someone to tell me how to get over it, right now. Give me a scripture verse that will solve my problem, or a book that will lay out a precise twelve-step plan for overcoming sin in three weeks. I'm not a big fan of going to my accountability group on Friday mornings and confessing the same sin that I've confessed for the last 17 weeks. I want change, and I want it now. I'm sure you can relate.

This desire for change is good, and God-honoring, but I think we often forget that sanctification is a slow process. Becoming like Christ doesn't happen in days, it happens over decades. I recently read a quote that reminded me of both the slow nature of change, and the necessity of regularly reading scripture for the purpose of change. In his book Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, Don Whitney quotes a man named Geoffrey Thomas. Thomas says:

So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God, you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all. Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these.

I love this quote! Growth in godliness is the result of consistently letting the Word of God "break over your heart". Our hearts are like stones and the Word of God is like the ocean surf. We must regularly let the "surf" of God's word break over our hearts and erode away our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and desires. That's why regular devotional times are so crucial. Apart from regular time in the Word of God we simply won't grow in godliness. It's that simple. If you want to grow in your love for Christ, you must spend time sitting at his feet, hearing his words. There is no substitute.

Are you letting the Word of God shape your heart? Are you regularly spending time in the Word of God? The grace of God flows through his word, like water through a channel. We just need to stand in the channel.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

Another Free Scripture Song


The reviews are in and the critics are raving about the free scripture songs we've been giving away.

Jonny Tsunami of Rolling Stone says, "We haven't seen anything like this since Hanson released their smash single 'Mmmmmbop'."

Siskel and Roper say, "Look out Hannah Montana, there's some new competition on the block."

Bono of U2 says, "What are we talking about?"

And now we're giving away another one. In all seriousness, we really believe that these scripture songs can really help you grow in scripture memorization. So we want to keep feeding your iPod with the word of God. Today we're giving away 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV).

To download the free scripture song click here.

The CD's from which these songs came can be purchased at Forever Grateful Music.

In case you missed the other scripture free scripture songs, you can download them here:

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Psalm 30:4-5

Please pass these scripture songs on to as many people as possible!

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 3:04 PM 0 comments  

Expand Your Prayer Life (pt. 2): The Aim of Prayer

Our Tuesday post said that we can expand our prayer lives by using the pattern Jesus gave us for prayer, the Lord's prayer.

Each section of the Lord's prayer is like a peg to hang our prayers on.
R. Kent Hughes points out that prayer has a vertical aspect and a horizontal aspect. The vertical has to do with God and his concerns, the horizontal with us and our concerns. In Luke 11, Jesus tells us to focus first on God with the revolutionary address, "Father."

Believers are adopted into God's family through Christ's life, death and resurrection. If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, God is now your Father. And he is eager and willing for you to come to him.

The aim of prayer: God’s glory

Jesus instructs us to pray, “Hallowed be your name.”

God’s name stands for who he is and all that he is. He is infinitely holy, glorious, majestic, just, sovereign, mighty, loving and wise.

When we pray “Hallowed be your name” we are saying: Father, let your name be held holy and treated with reverence in every place. In other words, Father, let your name be honored and worshipped in all the earth. Let everyone on earth see what a glorious God you are. We are asking God to fulfill Habakkuk 2:14: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." So when we pray "Hallowed be your name" we are praying Father, let the knowledge that you are glorious fill the earth. Let all people know what you are like - infinite in beauty, righteousness, goodness and strength.

God’s glory is infinitely more important than any of our personal needs. So before bringing our own concerns to the table, we should pray that God would fulfill his greatest concern – that his name be glorified for the enjoyment of all people. If we make God's concerns our top priority, he will surely look to our concerns.

Imagine a son who always comes to his father asking for things: "Dad, can I have $5? Can I borrow the car? Can I use your camera? Dad, I need a new ball glove." Most fathers would probably want to bless their sons with these things. But how different it would be if a son came and said, "Dad, what would you desire today? Is there anything on your heart I could go after? Anything I can do for you?" Imagine how pleased that father would be and how eager to bless his son.

So when we pray, let us come to our loving Father, who is rich and eager to bless us. Let us first worship and adore him and seek the advancement of his glory. Then let us ask God to meet our needs and supply our daily bread.

Make God's glory the aim of your prayers today!

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Have You Forgotten?


Psalm 103
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits...

I'm a forgetful man. I forget to take out the trash. I forget to return phone calls. My dad's birthday was last week (he turned 117). Sure enough, I forgot. But more seriously, I forget the blessings of God, which is why I so appreciate Psalm 103. The Psalmist knows that we're quick to forget the many blessings of God and so he reminds us to "forget not all his benefits". We must daily call to mind the many lavish ways that God has blessed us or we're doomed to forget them. What are some of these blessings?

who forgives all your iniquity...

How merciful God has been to us! He's forgiven ALL of our iniquities. Ponder the glories of this truth for a moment. Every sin I've ever committed has been forgiven by God. My "little" sins, and my great perversities. Gone. Forever. Washed away in that great crimson flood that flowed from the cross. Jesus was crushed beneath the awful weight of my iniquities so that God could extend the hand of forgiveness.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

who heals all your diseases...

In addition to having my sins forgiven, I've been healed of the disease of sin. I was once a slave to sin, ruled by my sinful passions, unable to love what was truly good. I was a miserable, hopeless, helpless slave of sin, and I had no hope of escape. Apart from divine intervention, I was doomed to a life of increasing misery and an eternity. But God intervened! He turned my heart of stone to a heart of flesh, and now I have the vibrant, pulsing, joy-giving life of God within me.

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy...

Because I am God's child, my life is now full of the love and mercy of God. Each morning I awake to new mercies. What a wondrous thought! Each day I am guaranteed the extravagant mercy of God. I can get out of bed each morning, knowing that I will soon be encountering the mercies of God. God has been so kind to me.

What about you? Have you forgotten the many mercies of God? Have you forgotten his innumerable blessings? If you lack joy, it's likely that you've forgotten the many blessings of God. As you go about your day, remember the specific blessings that God has shown to you. Recall your salvation. Recall the many kindnesses you've experienced from the hand of God. Experience fresh joy today by remembering.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Expand your Prayer Life


Do you get distracted when you are praying? Or do you find that after 5 minutes you’re out of things to pray about?

If you’d like to expand your prayer life, try using the Lord’s prayer as a pattern. Jesus never intended this prayer to be memorized and spouted off word for word in rote fashion. We know this because the version in Matthew 6 is worded slightly differently than in Luke 11. Jesus gave this “prayer” to us as a pattern or outline. You can think of each section as a peg to hang your prayers on. I once heard a man suggest to view each section like a marker in a cross-country race. When you pass each marker, you move into a different theme.

The Lord’s prayer has 2 dimensions – a vertical dimension and a horizontal dimension (R.K. Hughes). The vertical dimension has to do with God and his concerns - his glory, his kingdom. The horizontal dimension has to do with us and our concerns - for food, forgiveness, and strength.

Today we’ll start looking at the vertical dimension.

Who we pray to: Father

And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father…” (Luke 11:2. Compare to Matthew 6 – “Our Father”)

A revolutionary concept

Though the idea of God as Father is in the Old Testament, OT believers didn’t address God directly as “Father”. In all of the Psalms, there is not a single prayer to God as Father. The Psalmists address God as “O Lord,” “O My God,” “O God,” “O Most High.” Even David, the man after God’s own heart, didn’t pray to God as his Father. King David himself didn’t have the intimate relationship with God as Father that we can have through Christ.

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has brought believers into a relationship with God as Father! Through Christ, God adopts us as his own children. We’re in the family!

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17).

Jesus mission was to live and die to redeem sinners, but it also included revealing God as Father.

What a privilege! To know and come to God as our Father!

How close and intimate God desires to be to his children. Although it is appropriate to pray to God as “O Most High,” that doesn’t convey the same sense as “Father”. Before Jesus saved me, I would pray to “God” but he seemed far off and distant. I’m so grateful that Jesus shed his blood to bring me to God as my Father.

As our Father, God is full of tender compassion to us. He is eager for us to come to him. He delights to fellowship with his children and to bless us with good things. As a loving Father he cares for our well-being and desires to hear our requests and meet our needs.

Are you suffering today? Do you need help overcoming sin? Do you desire to be filled with God’s Spirit and joy and strength? Do you need wisdom? Come to your loving Father with all your requests, casting all your cares upon him because he cares for you.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

Will My Daughter Be Saved?


I'm going to begin by making a statement that will resonate with some and disturb others: I love reformed theology. I delight in the doctrines of grace. I love the unconditional election of God, the irresistible grace of God, and the perseverance of the saints. I don't love them because they were associated with John Calvin, or because they are advocated by guys like John Piper. I love them because they are thoroughly biblical. The doctrines of grace are everywhere in scripture.

I don't believe that I chose God, or would have ever chosen God, but that he chose me. I believe that he irresistibly drew me with his grace and that he will keep me to the end. These truths warm my heart with affection for God.

But it's when I look at my four-month old daughter Charis, that the rubber really hits the road for my theology. She is so beautiful, so precious, so innocent looking. I love her with an intense love, and care for her with all my heart. Yet scripture tells me that she is spiritually dead and an enemy of God (Eph 2:1-3). Scripture also tells me that she was born under the wrath of God. These are difficult things for me to swallow, but I believe that they're true.

Scripture also tells me however, that God is loving and merciful, not desiring that any should perish. Scripture tells me that God wants to save my daughter. And scripture tells me that God responds to the prayers of the righteous. I don't understand how the sovereignty of God and prayer work together, but the Bible teaches both and I believe in both.

And so I pray intensely that God would save my daughter. I appeal to God, asking him to open her eyes to the gospel at a young age. I ask him to draw her to himself by irresistible grace. I ask him to open her blind eyes to see Jesus Christ as her savior. Before I place her in her crib each night, I hold her close, kiss her on the head, and lift my voice to God in prayer.

I believe God will save my daughter. Why? Because God is full of mercy. He sovereignly gave her a mommy and daddy who pray for her every day. He placed her in a church that preaches the saving gospel of Christ week after week. I believe that God ordained these things to lead her to Christ.

I also find great comfort in knowing that it's God who saves. Why? Because there is no way that I could ever 'convince' Charis to trust in Jesus. I know that I simply don't have the ability to open her eyes to the gospel. God must put spiritual life in her, and because he is good, I believe that he will.

I believe that someday Charis will trust in Jesus as her savior, not because of the persuasive preaching of her dad, but because of the loving kindness of her God. That's my only hope. What's yours?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 7 comments  

Open Your Eyes


Imagine waking up one morning to find yourself surrounded by a swat team of thousands about to storm your house. It happened to Elisha and his servant. One morning the servant wakes up and figures he’ll get some coffee going then read the morning papyrus. But as he looks out the kitchen window, he sees the glint of sun on spearhead. They're surrounded by the great Syrian army, whose assignment is to take out Elisha. A stab of fear pierces the servant's heart.

“How’s that coffee coming?” asks Elisha as he stumbles into the kitchen in his bathrobe. “I hope it's good and strong. Why are you just standing there with your mouth open? What’s wrong, did you spill the coffee? Or did you accidentally serve me Maxwell House? Come on, why the terrified look?”

The servant stammers, ““Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (They said “Alas” a lot back then. It basically means "Yikes" or "Aaaaaargh").

"Do about what?", says Elisha as he slowly pours his coffee, squinting out the kitchen window. “Ahhh, it's those pesky Syrians again. Hey, where'd you put the Sweet 'n Low?"

The servant whines, “How can you think about Sweet 'n Low at a time like this? Master, Alas, alas, alas! We’re cooked - dead meat - Syrian fodder.”

Elisha puts a scoop of sweetener into his steaming mug, blows across the top, then takes a careful sip. Then he says, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

The servant runs again to the back window, looking left and right. He doesn’t see anything except Syrian banners, spears, chariots, and campfires. “Pardon me master, and I might add one more ‘alas,’ but, where might be ‘those who are with us?’”

Elisha says, "How is a man supposed to enjoy his morning coffee with all these questions, boy?" Then Elijah prays, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

“So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17).

“Now, boy," says Elisha, "can I please drink my coffee?”

HEB 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

When we are faced with challenging circumstances, what will we do? Will we look at what we can see with our natural eyes, or will we be convinced of the spiritual reality of things that we can only see with the eyes of faith?

Elisha saw into the spiritual realm with the eyes of faith. We must continually open our eyes to spiritual realities. No matter what situation we find ourselves in today, believers in Christ are not alone. Jesus is in us and with us through the Spirit. The angel of the Lord is encamped around us. God’s gracious hand is upon us. Our heavenly Father is directing all things for his glory and our good. His ear is attentive to us and his hand is open to us.

It may appear that we have been forsaken or that things are out of control. It may appear that the enemy has the upper hand. It may look bad on the surface. That's why we must open our faith eyes to see spiritual realities.

See what God’s word has to say about the truth of your situation. See what promises God has made concerning you. Believe God's word today, not your circumstances. And enjoy your coffee.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 6 comments  

10 Reasons the U.S.A. Could Beat Up Canada


In my previous post I made the offhand remark that the United States could probably beat up Canada. Apparently this remark didn't sit so well with some of my Canadian friends, who felt compelled to vigorously defend both their country and their honor.

So, to settle the question once and for all, I put together this exhaustive, comprehensive, all-inclusive list, citing 10 reasons that the US of A could beat up Canada. Before I say any more, it should be noted that in the summer of 2003 I actually spent three months living in Canada, which practically makes me an expert on the country. So, without any further ado, here are my 10 reasons that the United States could put a beating on Canada.

1. The front of our one dollar bill shows a picture of our fearless first president, George Washington, who gave the British a royal beat down. The front of the Canadian one dollar coin shows a picture of a duck. Actually it's a loon, which is why the coin is called a "loonie". Need I say any more?

2. Two words: Chuck Norris

3. Canada is ruled by a queen. We on the other hand have a guy from Texas who likes to eat his meat raw. AND, our vice president is known for shooting people. I'll take W over Queen Elizabeth in a cage match any day.

4. We have Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer, and Rocky. Canada has...mounties? You'd think they could at least come up with a better name.

5. The Canadian military currently has approximately 65,000 troops. The US has approximately 1.3 million. Of course our troops aren't called "mounties", which does make a significant difference.

6. A significant portion of our population enjoys watching race cars go in circles at 200 mph for up to 500 laps. That says dedication. This same population enjoys shooting things.

7. We invented the Big Mac, the Whopper, the Super Size, and the 64 oz Slurpee. Of course this is also why we need privatized health care, but that's besides the point.

8. Unlike Canada, and the rest of the world, we refuse to go metric. We don't want to use a system where everything divides nicely into 10's, 100's, and 1000's. No, we would rather remember figures like 5,280 feet and 16 oz.

9. Our national anthem is entitled "The Star Spangled Banner", a stirring title that evokes patriotism and pride from even the most cynical heart. The Canadians managed to come up with the creative title "O Canada" for their national anthem.

10. Us Christians carry around large, oversized study Bibles, that weigh somewhere between 50 and 300 pounds (not kilos). If necessary, these could be used as weapons (in a loving and gentle way).

Well, I think that settles it once and for all. A careful examination of the evidence clearly indicates that the United States could beat the bacon out of Canada if necessary. But we love our Canadian friends and only wish them the best. Just stay away from our Big Macs...

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:40 PM 16 comments  

Never Feel Condemned

Psalm 103:12 " far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."

Several years ago I took a trip with my family across the United States, starting in my hometown of Indiana, PA and ending up somewhere in the middle of Colorado. I learned several things on this trip. First, Kansas is the most boring state in the United States, hands down. If you are from Kansas, I'm deeply sorry. If I had to characterize Kansas in one word it would be "flat". If I was given a few other words I might add "mind-numbing", "more boring than watching C-SPAN", and "if I see one more wheat field I'm going to scream". The highlight of our trip through Kansas was when we came to a bend in the highway. You get my drift.

I also learned that the United States is a huge country (we could probably beat up Canada). It took us two days of all day driving just to get out to Colorado. We drove thousands of miles west to get from Pennsylvania to Colorado, and at that point we were only 2/3 of the way across the country. The distance between the east coast and the west coast is absolutely enormous.

I think this is a small picture of how far God removes our sins from us when we come to Him for salvation. Listen to the words of Jerry Bridges commenting on Psalm 103:

What is the significance of the expression "as far as the east is from the west"? Probably it was a cultural idiom signifying as great a distance as human vocabulary can express. Practically, it expresses an infinite distance. This is what God has done with our sin. Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, He carried them away an infinite distance. He removed them from the presence of God and from us forever. The Gospel For Real Life

Do you feel the glorious truths of Psalm 103? God has taken all of our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west. Think of the worst sin you have committed. That sin is completely and totally removed from you by the blood of Christ. Think of the great number of sins that you have committed in your life. All those sins are removed an infinite distance from you by the blood of Jesus Christ.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because Jesus has taken our sins upon his back and carried them away an infinite distance. If you have trusted in Christ then your sins are gone, completely, totally, and forever, never to be seen again. God doesn't remember them, because he took them away. And if God doesn't remember them, then neither should you.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 11 comments  

Open Your Mouth


My friends Tony and Maria adopted an orphan named Saah from Liberia this past July*. Saah had a head injury and a disabled hand. To adopt him, Tony and Maria had to pay thousands of dollars, and Tony had to fly to Liberia and stay for 2-1/2 weeks at the orphanage with him, then fight with the authorities who were refusing to let Saah leave the country. Finally, Tony and the child were able to fly back to the United States.

Saah is 14 years old, but has not enjoyed the advantages of an education, and cultural differences have made his adjustment incredibly challenging. For weeks after their return, Tony and Maria have worked with Saah hours a day just to be able to teach him things we take for granted such as the difference between a penny, a nickel, and a dime. They've taken him to countless physical therapy and doctors’ appointments and stayed in the hospital when he had surgery on his head. All this is just the tip of the iceberg of the huge investment Tony and Maria have made in Saah.

After all Tony and Maria have done for him, how do you think it would make them feel if Saah doubted their love? How would they feel if Saah didn’t believe they’d buy him shoes or give him lunch money?

The people of Israel continually doubted God’s faithfulness and goodness, despite all he'd done for them. So God tells them in Psalm 81:10, "
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." In other words, “Israel, have you forgotten who I am and all I've done for you? I’m the one who smacked down Pharaoh and brought mighty Egypt to its knees. I snatched you out of slavery with a mighty hand. Do you think I'd do all that then fail to give you bread? Open your mouth wide and I will fill it."

We too should have faith that if God went to the extreme lengths of sending and crushing his only Son to bring us out of our slavery, will he not give us his Spirit? Won't he give us groceries or a car or wisdom or strength? Will he not help us change? Will he not fill us with his joy and gladness? Open your mouth wide - in prayer and in faith. Ask your gracious and loving Heavenly Father for your daily bread. He is glorified in displaying his goodness to us.

*Tony and Maria gave me permission to share this

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Our Cursing God


We tend to associate curses with sorcery, Halloween, witchcraft, Harry Potter, and the like. In these contexts, a curse is usually some horrible supernatural jinx that will bring death and destruction into someone's life. We've all seen images of wizards raising their wands, uttering some odd phrase like, "Salama Meatbell", and then shooting a lightning bolt into some helpless victim. Most of it is just a bunch of Hollywood hocus pocus.

But the truth is, God really does curse people, and you and I were under that curse. In Galatians 3:10 Paul said, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." What a frightening thought. Because of our rebellion against God, we truly were under the horrible curse of the almighty, omnipotent God. The curse of God makes all other curses look like nothing more than child's play. The curse of God really does bring utter destruction, misery, and horror to those it falls upon. And the frightening truth is, right now there are some in hell who are experiencing the curse of God as we speak.

But we also serve a God who is full of mercy! He provided a way for us to escape the curse that hung over our heads, like a sword ready to fall upon us. God cursed his own son instead of us. As Jesus hung on the cross in our place, God placed the full curse upon his precious son. God cursed Christ instead of you! Galatians 3:13 says, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."

Our God is so kind! We were under the curse of God because of the wicked deeds that we had done. We deserved to be cursed by God. Yet he cursed Jesus instead of me. I received mercy, Jesus was cursed. Why would God curse Christ instead of me? Only the love of God could move Him to do such a thing.

Let us marvel anew at the mercy of God! Let our hearts be filled with joy and our mouths be filled with praise today. We are no longer under the curse of God, we are under his mercy. This is sweet news indeed.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

You Have More Faith than You Realize


But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Ps 13:5)

Believers in Jesus Christ will ever be finding themselves in situations where they must trust God. Our whole relationship with God is one of trust from start to finish. We are saved by trusting in Jesus and all he accomplished in his life and death for us. We continue to trust him every day of our lives by believing his Word.

Often we can find it hard to trust God. It’s hard to trust God when the answers to our prayers delay. Will we have enough to pay our bills? Will my child ever begin to believe in Christ? Will I ever change?

Maybe you'd say your faith is weak. But you probably have more than you realize.

For example, we trust in people and institutions every day – airlines, restaurants, doctors, stores, and banks. When you go to the grocery store, do you ask the cashier, “Is this food safe for me to consume? Has this meat been properly checked and packaged? Was this milk correctly pasteurized? Is this ibuprofen really 200 mg? Are there really 12 ounces of Cocoa Puffs in this box?”

When the doctor prescribes medicine for you, do you ask, “Are you sure this is the best one? Are you keeping up to date on medicines? Do you really have my best interests in mind? Are you giving me a sugar pill? Is this some kind of poison?”

When I get on a plane, I don’t ask the flight attendant, “Who built this plane? Are they qualified to build planes? Is this thing regularly inspected? Did they remember to put in the gas and check the oil? Are all the bolts in the wings tight? Can I see the pilot’s credentials? Does he really know what all those switches do? He hasn’t been drinking today has he?”

Every day we entrust our lives into the hands of people we don’t know, and many we’ve never even seen. Every day we put our faith in human beings who are fallible and forgetful, who make mistakes and miscalculations. We couldn’t live in this world without a large measure of faith in people. What is ironic is that though we put faith in people all the time, we’re often reluctant to trust in God.

Shouldn’t we trust our loving, faithful, all-wise, all-powerful God? Shouldn’t we believe the One who upholds the galaxies? We have more faith than you realize. Let's put more of it in Jesus Christ.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 1 comments  

You Killed Jesus, and So Did I


Have you ever heard someone say, "If you were the only person on earth God would have still sent Jesus to die for you, that's how much you're worth to God."? The next time you hear someone say that, do the following:

_Look them directly in the eyes and smile politely

_Place one hand on their shoulder in a warm, caring way

_Slap them across the face several times and shout, "That's not it at all!"

Just kidding about the last one...sort of. We need to remember that Christ's death doesn't prove our worth, it proves our utter sinfulness and depravity. Hear the words of Jerry Bridges:

Furthermore, even a deep, penetrating sense of our sinfulness does not do justice to the reality of our predicament. Our need is not to be measured by our own sense of need, but by what God had to do to meet that need. Our situation was so desperate that only the death of His own Son on a cruel and shameful cross was sufficient to resolve the problem. The Gospel For Real Life

We were so wicked and so perverse that it took the death of God Himself to save us. Our sin was so great, that only the infinitely precious blood of the Son of God could wash us clean. I know that I'm a proud man, a selfish man, a greedy man, an anxious man, a thoroughly sinful man. But I rarely see the true depths of my sin. My sin was so heinous, so perverse, so utterly disgusting, that only remedy was for God to kill his own son in my place.

Which brings me to the question that I'll be asking for all eternity: why would God bother with me? Why would God save such a wicked sinner as me? I didn't give a rip about God or his ways. In fact, I hated God. And yet God gave His son to rescue me. What extravagant mercy!

The death of Jesus doesn't prove my worth, it proves my wickedness. And it also proves how deeply God loves me. Enjoy the love of God today.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 7 comments  

C.J. Mahaney and Laptops


As part of my C.J. Mahaney Project, I'm attempting to listen to all 70 Mahaney messages from the Sovereign Grace Ministries website and then extract the humorous illustrations used during the message. By God's grace I will laugh and I will change as I listen to these messages.

In this story, told in The Main Thing (Part 1), C.J. tells the story of him spilling coffee on his laptop, his sinful reaction after spilling coffee, and then the condemnation he felt after sinning. C.J. uses this illustration to help us understand how to overcome condemnation.

You can listen to or download the story by clicking here.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 5:53 PM 2 comments  

The Lord has a Day

"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." EX 12:40-41

The Lord has a day for his children. Israel groaned under Egyptian slavery for 430 years until the "very day" God determined their bondage would end. And "on that very day" the people of Israel walked out of Egypt.

God had a day for Jesus to enter the world - he was born in the "fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4). He had a day for Jesus to die and a day to rise from the dead. And he has a day when Jesus will return - "the Day of the Lord."

God had a "very day" for you.

He had a day for you to be born into this world. He also had a day for you to hear the gospel, and a day to open your eyes to the glory of Christ and be born again.

God has many a "very day" in our lives.

He has specific days planned for us to meet a person or hear a message that will change our lives forever. He's planned days when we will touch people for Christ. He has specific days when he'll bring incredible and surprising blessings into our lives.. He created good works for us to walk in and knows the very day we will walk in each of them. Who knows what God may do in your life today?

If you're suffering, take comfort in this - God knew the day your trial began and he has a day for your suffering to end, just like he did with Israel. God knows the exact length of your affliction down to the hour and minute. Who knows? Your misery could end this morning. Today could be the last day of your distress. But even though you don't know how long you must endure, rejoice that God knows. Your grief won't last one minute more than he wills.

Don't give up.

Keep asking God for all you need and trust the timing to him. Keep asking him to help you, change you, heal you, deliver you. He has a day for you.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 3 comments  

God Loves You, But Does He Like You?


Have you ever wondered if God really likes you? Because you're a John 3:16-believing Christian you know that God loves you, but does he like you? We all have people in our lives that we "love" but that we struggle to like. You know the sort I'm talking about. Maybe it's that relative who always has horrendous breath and insists on carrying on a conversation six inches from your face. Maybe it's that person in the church who feels compelled to offer "constructive criticism" on everything you do. Maybe it's a young punk in the church like me who likes to listen to their music at ear-bleeding decibel levels. All of us have people that we love as Christians, yet struggle to like.

At times we often wonder if God feels the same way about us. Of course we know he loves us, because, after all, God is love. But does he really like us? Does he enjoy it when we come to him in prayer? Is he really glad that he saved us? Or does he just put up with us?

Zephaniah 3:17 speaks very clearly to this. It says, "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Do you realize that God is singing over you? He so delights in you, so loves, so "likes" you, that he's singing a song over you. God is singing a loud, joyful, cheerful, happy song over you. God doesn't just tolerate you, he REJOICES over you! He's glad that he saved you. The moment you came to Christ, all of heaven burst into celebration.

God loves you, and he likes you. Why does God love you? Because he sees you clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. When God looks at you, he doesn't see your sinful wickedness, he sees Jesus' righteousness. And when he sees you wrapped in these robes of righteousness, it causes him to sing.

As you go about your day, remember that there's a soundtrack to your life. God is loudly singing over you because he loves you - and he also likes you.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 7 comments  

Free Scripture Memory Song


In a previous post I said that we would be giving away some scripture memory songs to help you grow in memorizing scripture. Today we're making good on our promise and giving away another scripture song. Today's verse is Psalm 30:4-5.

Click here to download the song.

We would like to give this away to as many people as possible, so please pass the word around!

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 4:53 PM 11 comments  

Is Anybody Home?

When the storms of life strike with fury it can seem like God has turned on his answering machine and dozed off.

We can doubt if he hears our prayers. Does God really know how bad we have it? We may think Hey, we're suffering down here - is there anybody up there?

The Israelites probably felt like that. They groaned under the whip of Egyptian thugs and cried out to God for rescue. But they received no answer. The heavens must have seemed like brass. Could God see them suffering? Was he off running the universe with no time for them? Was anybody home?

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. Exodus 2:23-25

This passage tells us 4 things to remember in our trials.

First of all, God heard.

Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to him. He heard their prayers. He wasn't tuned out, listening to his iPod. He wasn't distant and uninterested, but nearby and attentive. Not only did God hear their cries, he heard their groaning. What a wonderful God we have - he hears not only our prayers, but our sighs and inarticulate groans. Just as a father hears the groans of his suffering child and has compassion, so does God hear our groans with pity. We should never think God doesn't listen to our prayers. The God who heard Jonah's cry from the whale's belly and Israel's cry in Egyptian slavery hears us. The Lord who collects our tears in his bottle hears our every whispered request.

Secondly, God remembered.

He remembered his covenant. Not that God had forgotten it. But he remembered his covenant with intent to act upon it. God remembers his covenant that he made with his children through Christ. He remembers his promises to never stop doing good to us. He recalls his promise to work all things for our good. He remembers his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. If Christ has saved you, never ever think that God has forgotten you.

Third, God saw.

He saw the Egyptian bullies beating his children. If I saw someone picking on one of my kids, I'd be on it like a hawk on a field mouse. Nothing in all creation is hidden from his gaze. God has his eye on your suffering and has compassion on you. He's not asleep. He sees the sparrows in your back yard. How much more does he see you, the apple of his eye, his child through Christ.

Lastly, God knew.

He knew what was happening. And he knew what he was going to do. He knew he would bring Egypt to its knees and deliver Israel with a mighty hand. God looks at you and knows. He knows what you're facing in infinite detail. And he knows exactly how he's going to help you. He knows the second your troubles began and the second he will stop them.

God hears, remembers, sees and knows. Cry out to him today. He's waiting to help.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

I'm In Serious Trouble


I've recently been reading the book The Gospel For Real Life by Jerry Bridges and have found my heart stirred with fresh love for God. Listen to this quote:

Have you ever thought about what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? I don't think any of us can fully plumb the depths of that commandment, but here are some obvious aspects:

_Your love for God transcends all other desires (see Exodus 20:3)

_Like David, you long to gaze upon His beauty and seek fellowship with Him (see Psalm 27:4)

_You rejoice in meditating on His Word, and like Jesus, you rise early to pray (see Psalm 119:97, Mark 1:35)

_You always delight to do His will, regardless of how difficult it may be (see Psalm 40:8)

_A regard for His glory governs and motivates everything you do - your eating and drinking, your working and playing, your buying and selling, your reading and speaking, and, dare I mention it, even your driving (see 1 Corinthians 10:31)

_You are never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you are confident God is working all things together for your good (see Romans 8:28)

_You recognize His sovereignty in every event of your life and consequently receive both success and failure from His hand (see 1 Samuel 2:7, Psalm 75:6-7)

_You are always content because you know He will never leave you or forsake you (see Hebrews 13:5)

_The first petition in the Lord's prayer, "hallowed be your name," is the most important prayer you pray (see Matthew 6:9)

After reading this I was freshly made aware of one very serious fact: There's no way I could ever get to God based on my obedience. Have I ever obeyed the first and greatest command of God for even thirty seconds? Have I ever loved God with every ounce of energy and passion in my soul? I don't think so. Even my best spiritual moments are distracted and half-hearted at best. I've incurred a spiritual debt to God that I'll never be able to pay. I owe God perfect obedience, yet I've never even payed Him one cent of what I owe. I'm in desperate need of a savior.

How grateful I am for Jesus Christ, who paid every last bit of my spiritual debt! Today I'm free from this debt because Jesus did love God with all his heart, soul, and mind. He's my only hope, my only salvation. Which brings to mind the words:

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 5 comments  

The C.J. Mahaney Project


C.J. Mahaney is one of my favorite preachers. In addition to being a phenomenal speaker, he is also a hilarious storyteller. In light of this, I recently downloaded all 70 C.J. Mahaney messages from the Sovereign Grace Ministries website in an effort to find the funniest of C.J.'s stories. I then hope to bring all the stories together into one simple location. Here's a story I found yesterday in a message entitled The Idol Factory.

You can listen to or download the story by clicking here.

UPDATE: I received this very insightful email from Bob Kauflin (who has worked very closely with C.J. for years) regarding C.J.'s use of humor in sermons.

Just saw your post on putting CJ’s funny stories together. What a great idea! I thought it might be helpful though if you emphasized that CJ isn’t just funny to be funny. He uses humor selectively to build rapport with those who are listening, humble himself, and especially to illustrate a particular point of the passage. He doesn’t use it as much as he used to so that his humor doesn’t detract from the text. I think those are important points that could help people understand WHY he chooses to use humor. Then the illustrations become a teaching tool. CJ’s use of humor also helps people apply truth to their lives and grow in their discernment. So different from the way humor is often used!

Excellent points indeed. Keep these in mind as you listen to C.J. tell hilarious stories.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 9:06 AM 4 comments  

Why We Shouldn't Quit Praying

Puritan preacher John Flavel says that it is exceedingly pleasant to see God's providential answers to prayer that come long after we have given up any hope or expectation of an answer (though we should never give up). Job had given up any expectation of better days. Jacob had given up any expectation of ever seeing Joseph again, yet God providentially answered their prayers which they had given up hoping for.

"Cast your bread on the waters, for you shall find it after many days." Ecclesiastes 11:1.

It may be many days before our bread comes back to us - it may be many days before our prayers are answered. But God encourages us to keeping casting our bread on the waters. The promise is that we SHALL FIND IT. And we shall find it AFTER MANY DAYS. So keep casting your prayers upon God. Don't' quit hoping for an answer. It may take a long time, but God will be faithful.

My mother had rheumatoid arthritis for 16 years. We prayed fervently for her in the beginning, laying hands on her and anointing her with oil. But I must sadly admit that after a while, I grew less expectant and less frequent in my prayers for her.

One day Mom became so ill her doctor sent her to the hospital, her potassium levels completely out of whack. He told her she would have to go off all her medications, including those she was taking for rheumatoid arthritis, until they got her stabilized. She was fearful about stopping but had no other choice. After a few days the doctors finally got Mom's potassium levels back to normal. By that time she was feeling so good she decided not to resume her arthritis medication. She never had to take it again. God healed her. Her doctor told her that she was in remission - he wouldn't call it a healing - but he did say that it was rare for a woman in her 70's with rheumatoid arthritis to suddenly go into remission. God answered our prayers that we had prayed 16 years earlier but had given up hope of ever seeing answered.

Don't stop casting your bread on the waters, for you SHALL find it after many days. Don't quit praying for God's kingdom to come. Don't stop praying for your children, relatives and friends to be saved. Never cease interceding for persecuted saints. Don't stop asking God to heal people. Don't stop casting your cares upon the Lord, for he cares for you.

The more bread we cast on the waters, the more will eventually return to us. The more prayers we lift to the Lord, the more he will eventually answer. It may be many days, or many years, but somehow, every crumb we cast on th
e waters will come back to us. That's God's promise.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Making A Spiritual Plan


I said on Tuesday that my goal for 2008 was to share the gospel with more people than I did in 2007. Easier said than done. I've made these types of resolutions in the past and haven't always followed through with them. After hearing a convicting sermon on the importance of evangelism I get myself all ramped up to go out and start a small revival in my town. I envision myself confidently sharing the gospel with strangers and them falling at my feet crying out, "What must I do to be saved?" I imagine myself walking into Starbuck's and hearing one employee say to another, "Boy, I wish someone could tell me how to get to heaven." But it never works out this way. Evangelism is hard, and the constant presence of the fear of man and selfishness doesn't make it any easier. That's why I need a plan of attack. My plan for 2008 has two parts:

Plan to pray

The simple truth is, I'm never going to change apart from the supernatural help of God. I can't change on my own. I'm too weak, too sinful, to easily discouraged. I need the power of God Himself. And so I plan on praying regularly that God would do two things. First, I'll be praying that He gives me opportunities to share the gospel. I'll be praying that God opens many doors for me to proclaim the message of salvation. Second, and perhaps even more important, I'll be praying for courage to take those opportunities. I'll be pleading with God for Spurgeon-like boldness to share the gospel. I need doors, and I need courage to step through those doors.

Plan to plan

Sharing the gospel also takes a certain amount of strategic planning. If I'm going to grow in evangelism, I need to plan on spending time with non-Christians. This planning isn't anything fancy. I won't be going out to Staples and purchasing a new PDA to help me with this strategic planning. All I need is a cellphone and a calendar. I'll pick up my cellphone, call a non-Christian friend, and ask him if he wants to go to lunch. When he says yes, I'll then write down the date in my calendar. Then I'll return to step one, and plan to pray. Evangelism requires a plan.

I'm glad I've got a plan, but my hope for change isn't ultimately in my plan. It's in God Himself. God is eager to help me change. He's eager to help me grow evangelism. He wants to see sinners saved even more than I do. So my hope rests not in the plan, but in God. May He receive all the glory.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some phone calls to make.

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 2 comments  

Deal Biblically with Regrets


There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all
--In My Life by the Beatles

These lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney capture the poignancy of looking back over the years and fondly reminiscing. The beginning of a new year often finds me replaying scenes from my life. Sometimes I can experience a pang of regret over past sins, failures and mistakes. Ever happen to you? Praise God who has given his children a biblical way to deal with regrets.

First of all, the Cross covers all our sins and failures

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (
Romans 8:1).

God knew about every sin we'd commit before he created us. And he sent his Son to pay for every one of these offenses on the cross. Because God punished all our sins in Christ, no punishment remains for believers. So if you feel condemnation for sins in your past, you must regularly remind yourself that Jesus Christ took that condemnation and there's none left for you.

Think of Peter. He denied Jesus 3 times. He could have struggled with regret and condemnation for the rest of his life. Then there's Paul. He stood by and approved of Stephen’s murder. He sanctioned other murders. He yanked Christians out of their homes and threw them in jail. Yet Paul said there's no condemnation.

If God doesn't condemn us, then we must not condemn ourselves.
Maybe you say, "I know that God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself." This is an insult to God. Do you have a higher standard than God? Was the blood of Jesus not enough to take care of your sins? If God doesn't condemn us, then who are we to condemn ourselves?
Despite the way we feel, we must stand on God's word not our feelings. If God says I'm not condemned, I'm not, no matter how I feel.

Secondly, God is sovereign over all our sins and mistakes

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (
Romans 8:28).

God works ALL things together for good, including our sins. God is in no way responsible for our sins, for he's not the author of sin. But God is sovereign over all our sins and failures. Somehow even these fall under the umbrella of his plan for our lives. Not even our sins can thwart his good intention for us.
Joseph's boasting of his dreams to his brothers was immature and unwise, but it was part of God's strategy to get him to Egypt. Joseph even recognized how God used his brothers' sins to accomplish his purpose. He said to them:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today
(Genesis 50:20).

David committed adultery with Bathsheba.Their first child died, but their second son, the son of a marriage that began with adultery, was Solomon, one of Israel's greatest kings.
Excessive regret is an insult to God’s sovereignty, because by it we are saying that our sins are too hard for God to turn to good. So instead of dwelling on your regrets, praise God for his mighty power to work all things for good.

Thirdly, forget the past and press on thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (
Philippians 3:13-14).

If anyone could have looked back with regret, it was Paul, for he had hated Christ and persecuted the church. Yet he constantly put the past behind and looked to Christ. Constantly looking back with regret will not change anything. Forget the past, unless it motivates you to change in the present. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.

In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a master demon advises his pupil to preoccupy his "temptee" either with the past or the future, but never the present. Satan would have us live in sadness for the past or fear and anxiety about the future - anything but focusing on Christ and his will for us today. The past is gone and most of our worries about the future won't happen, so focus on knowing, loving and obeying Jesus now.

Deal biblically with your regrets. Reject condemnation, rejoice in God's sovereignty, and press on, trusting Christ for the grace for this day.

Posted by Mark Altrogge at 8:00 AM 4 comments  

My New Year's Resolution


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

Okay, I think I've figured out my New Year's resolution. Actually, 'resolution' isn't the right word. It's more like, my 2008 spiritual goal. My goal for the year 2008 is (cue drum roll and semi-angelic sounding choir in the background): hang out with Christians less!

I need to explain this one. I've noticed that I hang out almost exclusively with Christians. I go to church with Christians. After church I play basketball with fellow Christian jocks. I go out for lunch with Christians, watch movies with Christians, and write blog posts to help Christians. Rarely do I find myself in the company of non-Christians. In fact, I don't even like hanging out with non-Christians that much. I would much rather hang out in my comfortable little Christian bubble, where everybody smiles and music by Steven Curtis Chapman is always on in the background. I'm a selfish Christian.

This really needs to change. I've been changed, radically changed, by the message of the gospel. God found me, saved me, changed me, cleansed me, freed me, and is sanctifying me by the power of the gospel. I must share this glorious, life-changing, soul-saving, God-glorifying message with others. I can't be silent when millions of people around me are on the fast-track to a blistering eternity in hell. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. It's a powerful, explosive, life-changing message. Oh how I want to share that power with others!

And so by God's grace I'll share the gospel with more people in 2008 than I did in 2007. By God's grace I'll spend less time hanging out with Christians and more time hanging out with those who don't know Jesus.

I like Steven Curtis Chapman, but I'm ready for a different soundtrack this year. It's time to bust my bubble.

What's your spiritual goal for 2008?

Posted by Stephen Altrogge at 8:00 AM 6 comments