Sure looks different from the first coming!


“Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be…But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21,22). Wow! Terrible suffering.

RELIGIOUS APOSTASY. “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray…And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (24:5,10-12. Six times–”many”).

WORLD WARS. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (6,7). Much worse than WWII, when 85 million perished.

NATURAL DISASTERS. “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (7b), as the earth is coming unglued.

PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (9). Christians aren’t winning any popularity contests before the return of Christ.

WORLDWIDE EVANGELISM. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (14). In spite of opposition, the message goes out!


“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (29-31).

WHAT? The universe is unraveling, getting ready for a redo!

WHEN? No one knows, not angels, not even Jesus (36). “…the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (44). 

HOW? Glory and power, total visibility, the opposite of the first trip in humility and hiddenness.

FOR WHOM? The elect, the chosen. Two opposite responses to his coming: rejoicing or mourning. Unbelievers and demons will weep because their time is up.

SO WHAT? Stay awake (42) and do your job (45,46). That’s our assignment–until then!


I raised my ten-year old hand when Paul Lindell, a missionary, came to town. I don’t remember the moment, but my parents let me know years later. It took. I knew in high school that I was going to be a pastor. I was different from the guys I connected with, not mature enough to reach out to them, but they respected me. I was filled with the Holy Spirit the summer after graduation. Praise God for that.

College days were good, growing in the Lord. Under the influence of Hal Lindsey at UCLA, I spent two years at Dallas Seminary. Then I took a year off to teach at a Bible college in Kenya, study in Israel and travel, before deciding that I was homesick. After a summer with family, I headed for my final year of seminary at Luther in St. Paul. It was the worst/best year of my life. I went from the happy, outgoing, young man to the withdrawn, fearful, depressed senior who was supposed to be ordained in a year into the ministry. Didn’t look like it. I was attempting to reach out to my fellow classmates, though it was not easy to connect. They talked about gross things at lunch, yet I still wanted to reach and impact them. B. Mark Anderson, a pastor friend in Iowa, was my pillar during those months. I was sometimes consumed by fear. I was afraid to answer the phone in my room, not sure what to say, and I certainly did not want to lead chapel, the responsibility of every senior once before they graduate. I didn’t want to raise my hand in class for fear I might stutter or say the wrong thing. And yet in my darkness, God drew close to me. I prayed often with those who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though I don’t remember doing it.

The impact of this difficult year hung with me for years. I got the wind knocked out, and it took time to regain confidence, though I was thrust immediately into full-on ministry the fall after graduation. Being a pastor fit the person God had made me. Little by little He healed me from the darkness, and I had twenty-four rich years at Trinity that included marrying Karen and having six children, before being called to direct Lutheran Renewal.

A year after starting my new role, Dick Denny, lay leader at LR, said to me one day, “Hey, you missed the pastors’ meeting today.” I said, “Yeah, couldn’t be there.” He responded, “You should have.” I wondered why. Seemed like he was getting in my face. I asked why it was so important. He responded, “Many of the pastors said that their lives were dramatically changed when you prayed for them at Luther Seminary.” I was shocked. I couldn’t remember one of them. And yet in my darkness, the light continued to shine. I share this to comfort those who go through dark and difficult times. God is especially near to you in your brokenness. He doesn’t abandon you when you are struggling, and you still shine with the brightness of Christ!


Your hope, anchored in a sure future, enables you to cope today. Joshua and Caleb tried to talk a fearful nation into going for it. Ten spies had told them about the giants in the land who made them feel like grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13:33). Joshua and Caleb said, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us…And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us” (Numbers 14:7-9). The people responded by trying to stone them. Joshua and Caleb were fueled by the future. The ten other spies were more comfortable with their dismal past than their unknown future–and never went there. Really sad!


  • Present afflictions are light and momentary and the future is glorious (2 Cor. 4:17).
  • You say, “What if,” rather than, “If only”. “What ifs” take us into the future. “If onlys” bring us back to our past. “What ifs” dreams of what can be. “If onlys” remind us of what can’t.
  • Circumstances do not rule our life. We live above the circumstances, never under them. People say, “Under the circumstances, I’m doing okay.” What are they doing under?
  • You are a victor, not a victim, because the present struggle does not take you down. Your anchor holds onto the eternal rock.


  • The present is oppressive and the future is daunting. We live in the past because we are afraid of what is ahead. We prefer settling in the past to challenging the future.
  • It is going to get worse rather than better.
  • We dream about what was rather than what can be and we romanticize it. We make the past look better than it really was, because that is all we have.
  • We are victims and we don’t have courage for what is ahead.
  • We say “why” rather than “why not.” “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3). Really?!


1  A settled tomorrow makes for a doable today.  The ultimate equips us for the immediate. Settle tomorrow, and today just got easier.

2  Between the promise and the promised land is the process–always. Accept the process and you will enjoy the promised land. You go through the desert to get to the promised land.


1 Do not worry,  2 Do not get discouraged, and 3 Turn tests into testimonies.

SO (some application questions)

Is there anything that I am doing that I need to stop doing?

Is there anything that I am not doing that I need to start doing?

Is there a door that I need to close? Is there a door I need to open?


If you’re having a difficult day at work, but you were invited to a Twins World Series game in the evening, the day just got easier. If your week includes two difficult assignments, but you have a ski on the weekend, the week’s doable. If winter breaks records for the coldest and longest, a summer month-long trip to the Bahamas enabling you to endure well. If your life has included unbelievable setbacks, heaven looks beyond all imagination.

Destroy someone’s hope, and they start dying before they stop breathing. On the other hand, hope for tomorrow gives you a hold on today. Does anyone live that way? Listen to Paul: “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You might feel like saying, “Who is calling my affliction ‘light and momentary’? It’s heavy and long-lasting.” I’ll tell you who–a man who endured far more than we ever will–multiple beatings, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, stoning, and more. If you have eight parts of affliction and only two parts of hope, the affliction overpowers you. But if you have twelve parts of affliction, and thirty parts of hope, you are being fueled by the future, and hope wins.

Do you know anyone who has blazing hope? I will tell you how they live. They don’t seem to be taken down by what takes down normal people. They have their share of hardships, but they don’t complain about them much. They are too busy praising God for his goodness, even in the midst of trials. They are not immersed in their circumstances; they are asking you about yours. It feels like they have one foot in eternity. They don’t–they have both feet.  Peter told suffering saints, “Set you hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). In other words, put all your marbles in the world to come. That way nothing today robs you of peace.

Oh, we’ll have some doozies. The man who called his hardships “light and momentary” said earlier in the same letter that “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). For some life can become almost unbearably difficult. So while we “rejoice with those who rejoice,” we continue to “weep with those who weep.” But, we help one another not to abandon the hope that we are marked for eternity. Ninety years here is an infinitesimal fraction compared to forever.

Look who faced disabilities without letting it disable them.  Maybe they can give you hope rather than dismantled by difficulties. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for “lack of ideas.” Helen Keller was the first blind and deaf person to get a college degree. Marla Runyan was the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics–as a runner. Beethoven composed some of his greatest masterpieces while deaf. Christy Brown, an Irish painter and writer, could only use his foot for writing and painting. Albert Einstein had a learning disability and didn’t speak until he was three. John Milton became blind at 43 and still wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost. Thomas Edison frustrated his teachers, too stupid to “get it.” Henry Ford went broke five times before he made it. Anchor your hope in eternity–and live with joy today!


Remembering Karsten Elias Anderson, February 20, 1985.


After three difficult births, we prayed that this one would be different. We blessed him at night along with the other children. But one week before he was due, there was concern as her ankles were swollen. An ultrasound was ordered when Karen reported no movement. The technician asked when we had last heard a heartbeat. Karen answered, “Friday.” It was Tuesday. The lady said no more for ninety long seconds. We thought, “Oh, no.” After searching in vain, she said, “I am afraid I have very sad news. There is no heartbeat.” Karen in shock went into the other room and began to sob with horrendous heaving cries coming from deep within. He was due in a few days.

We went to the hospital and had labor induced. Karen delivered Karsten Elias twenty hours after we arrived. The short cord wrapped about his neck three times was the first possible explanation. An autopsy revealed nothing more. It was hard to have questions without answers.

Our children comforted us best. Naomi at five expressed deep disappointment at not being able to bring Karsten home: “But I wanted to stroll the baby.” When we explained what happened, she said, “Then God will have to stroll the baby.” One day she announced, “We’re going to have a girl next time, and she’s not going to heaven.” Naomi was right on both counts. Erikka (due on Karen’s birthday) came weighing in at twelve pounds, almost twice the weight of Karsten, truly a “double blessing,” which helped to bring healing and feel God’s love. She was followed by Israel and Karis. I was so proud of Karen for having three more after losing one at birth. Brave woman!

How do you un-plan when you have planned for a year? The difference between life and death is great. Karen felt abandoned and rejected. It took many months before she could sing again. We are thankful that we will see Karsten again! We agreed that during our grieving we had never felt so loved by people. We thought of those who had gone through similar hardships without the support system we had. We prayed that we would learn better how to comfort others. People sometimes wonder if they should bring up the deeply grievous situation. We found help in sharing our sorrow. We discovered that healing comes (ever so slowly) from remembering. Karen began to experience healing when she finally allowed the Holy Spirit to come to her and slowly comfort her–eight months after holding a lifeless body of the boy we had looked forward to meeting. We will one day. Don’t know how old he will be or whom he will look like. He will most likely look like an Anderson.

I emailed this note to our children on February 13, 2018:

Tomorrow is a happy day and a sad day. It is Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday. We lost Karsten Elias on Ash Wednesday. Time does not take away the great loss, but it has eased the pain. It helps us to remember when others remember with us. Saying something comforting to Mom would be well-landed words. It had been prophesied that this birth would be different.. It was different all right. How could God let a perfectly healthy baby die? And not only ours but all the grief and pain in the rest of the world.

Others helped carry her grief, like Sue Guldseth her mentor. The light began to come back into her dark soul when she “gave God permission” to begin the healing process. The real culmination will happen when we see him on the other side. Until then, we remember, and we do our best to “weep with those who weep.”



On Monday night February 4th at 10:15 PM, my sister Ruth took her last breath on earth. A moment later she took her first breath of heaven. Paul wrote, “Absent from the body; present with the Lord.”

My four sisters and I had the privilege of having Ruth as the oldest of the Anderson children.  Ruth was a superstar. It will be impossible to replace her. She lived with many trials, but she had unwavering faith.  Karen agrees that she treated all of our children like they were champions. In fact, she was the champion. And it never seemed like she was pouring it on for any selfish reason.  It was genuine and strong, yet without hype. We will miss the kind of encouragement that we were all used to getting from Ruth when she was well enough to give it. It also happened with almost every phone call.  She was an expert at focusing upon other people. Though she struggled with many hardships, she lived an unselfish life. What a great older sister. Life could easily have been about Ruth and her woes. Once she was able to deal emotionally with a divorce that she didn’t plan or vote for, she chose to be a victor rather than a victim.


We would visit Ruth, all twisted up in her body, but with a mind and heart still able to focus on others. Victims rehearse their life situation and feel compelled to tell you how bad the marriage is, the job, the church, the health. Ruth managed to focus on others in the midst of her pain.

Some people give those who make their life more difficult the power to make them miserable. We should never surrender that right to anyone. Sadly, people hate in order to get even, and it gives them stomach ulcers or migraines. Not Ruth. She knew how to live in a holy and healthy way, even with a debilitated body.

Victims feel entitled to a better life. Ruth wished for a better life, but she didn’t talk about it. Somewhere during every visit we would end up laughing. And Ruth had a great laugh. She could have been bitter; she was beautiful instead. She glorified God in the midst of her pain.


Jesus died forgiving his assailants. That was his first order of business from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  When I came back to direct Lutheran Renewal, I started a prayer movement. Someone who had hurt Ruth deeply wanted to be involved. I chose to speak with Ruth about it first. I explained what I was preparing to do and asked if she felt okay with it. Here’s what she said:  “Everyone is entitled to a second chance.” I marveled at her gracious response. She wasn’t holding onto bitterness. She lived well, loved well, and died to herself.

On one occasion as I was visiting Ruth, I rehearsed some of the hardships she had encountered. Then I asked her, “How do you deal with them all as you look back?” I was shocked at her answer–and deeply blessed. She said, “I don’t look back.”  Thank you, Ruth, for teaching us how to live. We will see you soon!


What are we signing up to when we become Christians? Perks or persecution. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John did not mislead us. We mislead ourselves. We think it is going to be a piece of cake. I did. Life is harder than I had planned for. So is marriage. Sure would be helpful if mature couples said to young people getting married, “It is going to be really hard. You are going to learn how to die to yourself or a difficult relationship will be even harder.” The couple on the couch thinks, “Not our marriage. We love each other.”

They come in for the thousand-mile checkup and they are not google-eyes–they are glazed, like they have just come from a war zone. The pastor asks them how they are doing, but he already knows: “Not as easy as we anticipated. We discovered that living together can bring out the worst in us. Divorce is the farthest thing from our minds, but we have thought that we wanted to hurt each other a few times. We need help.” Welcome to Marriage 101!

Short-term pain–long-term gain. We tend to choose pleasure over pain. But discipline tells us to opt for pain. Peter had an allergic reaction to it when he first heard it from Jesus. He voted for pleasure. But he discovered through failure that talking about suffering prepared people for the hardships of life, that it would be cruel to talk about the up-side and not the down-side, that addressing hardship enabled people to suffer well and without whining.

Moses chose pain. The devil offered him a princess. He could take his choice as Pharaoh’s prize grandson of any gal in the palace. He was the river baby, the adopted son, now a strong adult. He was offered the riches of the most powerful nation on earth. He grew up near the throne. Must have been a total shock to his grandfather when he said, “Thanks anyway.” Made him angry.

God met with Moses out in the desert and made another offer. Moses would lead two million people on a hike through the wilderness. Never been done before, taking a nation on a seven-hundred mile walk through the desert–without coolers, running water, food, or camping supplies. That’s different. What did God gives him for the job? A stick.

The Bible says that “by faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king [his grandfather?], for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

How could Moses give up such riches? Because he saw God by faith. Two truths come from his decision:

  1. Sin brings pleasure for a while, but it “fleets”, then turns to cancerous growth. Young adults who consistently choose pleasure over pain are postponing and maybe cancelling their God-appointed destiny. Sin can rob us of our future. Short-term gain means long-term pain.
  2. Short-term pain means long-term gain. Had he chosen riches, he would have  died a rich and miserable man with no lasting legacy. And he would have thrown away a chance to lead a nation into the ways of God and have a legacy that endures for three thousand years. Way to choose well, Moses!


How long is that? Too long when it’s hurtful. Peter, the disciple who had an allergic reaction to suffering the first time he heard it from Christ (Matthew 16:22), grew to understand its purpose. He put it in perspective so his readers could embrace it, not with quiet resignation but with blazing hope. Called “the apostle of hope,” Peter puts suffering in the context of the return of Christ and an eternity with the Bridegroom. Even an entire life of hardship, when seen from the view of forever, is an unbalanced fraction. God has mercy.

Peter writes, “In this (the coming of the King and an eternal inheritance) you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials” (I Peter 1:6). Then he takes exiles in a hostile world through some scenarios of suffering for “a little while:”

  1.  Abstaining from the passions of the flesh, an all-out war (2:11).
  2.  Living in an unfriendly world as aliens (2:12).
  3.  Daily mistreatment from an overbearing boss (2:18-20).
  4.  Marriage with a spouse who does not share our values (3:1-6).

The greatest reason to embrace redemptive suffering is that the Son of God did: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (2:21). And how did he do this, so we can learn this difficult assignment? Three ways:

  • He kept His mouth shut (“when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”).
  • He kept His conscience clear (“He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips”).
  • He kept His heart open (“He trusted to him who judges justly”).

When we suffer, it’s hard not to say something. Completely natural. We wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt. What hurts gets our attention, and something comes out of our mouths. Peter encourages us to watch what does. The first thing that came out of his at the thought of hardship brought a painfully embarrassing rebuke from someone who knew what He was talking about (Matthew 16:23), because Peter didn’t. May God give us grace to check our words in the face of difficulty.

We’re not only tempted to say something wrong but also to do something stupid. A bitter or reactionary response may rob us of the grace we need to go through hardship and win. Hopefully, we can continue to trust Him who judges justly.

It’s one thing to suffer; another thing completely to suffer like Jesus did. That has power to influence those on the other end of our pain (2:12; 3:1,2). Suffering will change us, but righteous suffering can also change a boss, a mate, a hostile pagan. It is happening every day all over the world. Maybe it can happen in your life as well. Sister, brother: perhaps you are going through a horrendous battle. We weep with you in your sorrow. May God bring you through. And may you experience His healing, comfort, victory, vindication!


God is shaping us to be like His Son Jesus.  “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good…For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28,29). What are some tools God uses to make this happen?


God didn’t give parents a trial run before the real thing. Parents are thrust into this daunting task of raising up godly children with no trial run and no detailed manual. The way they learn how to raise kids is to HAVE kids. On-the-job training. None of us grew up in a family with parents who really knew what they were doing. They were experimenting, doing the best they could–hopefully. We were their assignments.


People we grow up with will change our lives–for better or for worse. The tension that shows up in the Bible with brothers and sisters (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Mary and Martha–to name a few) demonstrate the potential of siblings to compete with one another. Trust God to use siblings–even through the hardships.


Marriage is a killer. God uses it to sanctify us. When I got married, I tried to get Karen to be more like me. Dumb idea. I learned (very slowly) that I needed to die to myself to properly serve her. I am embarrassed that it took me so long to learn. Now we are both working on being unoffendable. Great goal–difficult to pull off, but when even embraced in part, it enables us to walk together and serve one another. Marriage is no piece of cake–but it is God’s idea and oh how rewarding!


The answer some have for a difficult boss is to go to human resources. God has another idea. It’s called suffering. “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (I Peter 2:18,19). Good things happen when people learn to accept the hardship of a cranky boss. Peter says, “This is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (20). Jesus not only suffered for us, but he suffered to show us how we can go through suffering as well–keeping our mouth shut, our heart open, and our conscience clear.


Which hurts more, the failures of others or our failures? Ask Peter. He thought he was finished after defecting. He wimped out under the pressure of a servant girl. Not close to what he had vowed to Christ. He knows it’s all over. But a meeting with the resurrected Christ not to rebuke him but to reinstate him changed his future. There’s a place for failures in the kingdom of God.

I remember when Dan, my partner in ministry, said, “Nothing is wasted.” God’s toolbox proves it. Pain has a purpose. He is doing a good work in you! (If you want to receive my monthly newsletter to pray for us, send me your email: pa@harvestcommunities.org


Can you finish the phrase?  I just had a total knee replacement for the second time (I have two knees, so I don’t plan to do anymore). This round is a struggle. I was bearing down on my swollen knee, and a family member said, “Don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself.” To which I replied, “Hospital people told me to do it, and you’re right–it hurts.”

When I go for my “required” walks in the hall, the first steps are painful. The knee wants to settle in with status quo (state as is). But what we’re going for is flexibility. Getting there hurts. If I don’t do the sometimes painful physical therapy, the knee will decide that we are settling for less than it is capable of.

I wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt so much. My preference is to not do the exercises. I’d rather lie in bed and groan once in a while. I need a long-term vision for the PT (and for life). People have coached me by saying from experience, “It’s all in the PT.” I would like to tell them, “But you don’t understand–PT hurts.” They went through it, so they do understand. They know that it will hurt much more in six months when I try to make my knee do what it should do, and it can’t, because I went the no-pain route.

I sometimes see pastors avoiding conflict. It hurts. Conflict is the light on the dashboard, saying that something needs to be dealt with. The light does not fix the problem; it only alerts me to the problem. How foolish if I put my hand on the dashboard to cover the light because I don’t like what it is saying. I must see the light as my friend, letting me know that I have business. I once tried to ignore the light telling me that the engine was hot. I figured I could get to the top of the hill and coast. Wrong. I didn’t drive the car home. It was towed. Cost me much more to ignore it than to deal with the problem.

Like I said it another blog: short-term pain–long-term gain. The opposite is also true. Avoid the conflict and it becomes a disaster. Deal with the conflict and learn how to live successfully. There may be fallout, but less than by avoiding it. Peter warns us not to be surprised at the trials that come our way, but we often do: “I thought it was going to be easier.” Jesus told us, “In the world you will have tribulation…”

So I am doing the exercises with a heavily swelled knee. The pain is actually my clue that something good is happening. Interesting. Sometimes we interpret pain as the absence of God. Maybe He is closest to us in our pain. Just as I got correction for causing pain to my knee, some “friends” who don’t understand may encourage you out of pain–the very thing you need to become all God wants you to.

When we get to the point where we can thank God for the pain that is stretching our spiritual muscles, we are posturing ourselves for long-term gain. Hey, I think I’m getting it. Back to the exercises. Ouch!