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 I went from the happy, outgoing, young man to the withdrawn, fearful, depressed senior who was supposed to be ordained in a year into the ministry.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!


“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance” (Genesis 39:6). He had form; sounds like a good build. His looks and physique got him into trouble. David “was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (I Samuel 16:12). Sadly, he had multiple wives. Daniel was “without blemish, of good appearance” (Daniel 1:4). What about the Son of God? “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). The Bible is not afraid to recognize good looks. Jesus didn’t have them. He was probably on the low end of average. No one took a second look.

It was like God to do this. The world looks at the handsome and beautiful and idolizes them. Not God. He doesn’t choose the rich, the famous, the standouts, the important, the good-looking. Paul wrote, “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world…to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (I Corinthians 2:27-29).

When you see movies of Jesus and the disciples, Jesus stands out in his white robe, neat and flowing hair, and well-manicured beard. I suspect that if we had seen Jesus with his disciples, we could not have picked out who was Jesus. If Jesus had been good-looking, there would have been proof that God is after the good-looking ones, just like the Son of God. It is what he did and said that changed people, not the way he looked.

Nothing wrong with good looks. If you’ve got them, thank God. But don’t think that it gives you extra points or any kind of advantage on others. The world looks on beautiful bodies and admires them, often with jealousy. If you don’t have good looks, thank God, because for some it becomes a curse rather than a blessing.  

“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’” (I Samuel 16:7).

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised
(Proverbs 31:30).

“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls, or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works” (I Timothy 2:10).

“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (I Peter 3:3,4).


Dr. Klem started his class at The Master’s Institute this way: “Two important truths: First, there is a God. And second, you know less about Him than you think.” A lady who started a highly successful restaurant said, “Knowing that you know nothing is the best thing that can happen to you.”

Paul said, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. Then he went on, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (I Corinthians 8:2). Far better to be known than to know.

God was pouring out His Spirit at Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, a massively important time.  Most people didn’t know that, but they didn’t know that they didn’t know. Two responses of observers are telling: “Some mockers said, ‘They are filled with new wine’” (Acts 2:13). They thought they knew, and they were dead wrong. These men were filled with the Spirit, not with spirits. Those who thought they were out of their minds were clueless. Others asked questions instead of giving answers, a better way to operate: “What do these things mean?” Questions leave the door open to investigate more. Easy answers block off revelation from heaven.

Children learn at a rapid pace. Why? Because they know that they don’t know, so they ask questions. The older we get the fewer questions we ask and the more answers we give. We’d be better off maintaining the outlook of a child. Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to little children. Even so, Father, because it was good in your sight” (Matthew 11:25). Questions keep us open to truth. Answers can shut the door to more. They end with a period; questions do not. Jesus has a strong bias toward humble children rather than knowledgeable adults.

The religious experts in the day of Christ knew less than they thought. The wise men were seekers, asking the “where” question to get to the King. They got an answer, “In Bethlehem of Judea…” But the knowledge of the experts did not make them budge. They were five miles away from the greatest event that had ever occurred on the planet, and they didn’t know enough to join the wise men. Like Paul said, knowledge has a way of puffing people up (I Corinthians 8:1). They were researchers rather than searchers, and they knew very little. The wise men were on a quest. The little they knew (and they knew they didn’t know much) led them to pursue. What wisdom!

How much do you know? Are you better at questions or answers? Are you more like a child or an adult? Are you honest about what you don’t know or do you hide your ignorance behind sophistication? Here is my advice:

  • Intensify your search for Jesus. He promises that if you search for Him with all your heart, you will certainly find Him.
  • Ask good questions like, “What does God have for me now? Do I have unfulfilled dreams I need to pursue?”
  • Become more childlike in your worship. Grow in your expression of love for the Lord.
  • Exercise your faith. Find a pretension and destroy it. Take a promise and believe it. Discover a gift in someone and release it. Find a mountain and move it. Uncover a doubt and bury it. Make a commitment and keep it. Think up something childlike and do it.



As a student at UCLA I worked with a guy named Hal Lindsey. Through his influence I went to Dallas Seminary two years, then finished at Luther Seminary. At Dallas I was given the answers; at Luther I got the questions, but they didn’t match, and I struggled emotionally. Fears replaced confidence. At times I thought I was going crazy.

I attempted to get close to fellow students, but they rode on a different track. While at a reception, I was introduced to a young pastor they all considered cool. He said to me in front of them, “I know you. You’re the good basketball player—and a little weird.” They laughed–I died inside. Someone had just exposed me. Had I not been operating at such a fragile level, I might have responded, “Hey Pardner, I am weirder than you think.” But because I heard what I thought might be truth, I couldn’t manage a response.

Garbage is waste material. People don’t store smelly garbage, they toss it. But even garbage can be used productively. Think compost.Some people enjoy collecting garbage, then dumping it on others. I had a load dumped on me that night. So have you. It doesn’t feel good, but the good news is that garbage can serve a good purpose.

The apostle Paul had a compost pile. He wrote the strangest thing: “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). I don’t know many people who enjoy insults. But Paul found that when insults came his way, it made him go low. And grace is found in the lowlands. I lacked the maturity as a seminary student to know how to handle garbage. I just internalized it.  Years later I realized that I needed to extract the smelly stuff through forgiveness.

Garbage in the soul festers. Most people don’t possess compost piles, but those who do also have beautiful flowers and fruit growing out of their lives. Rather than being victimized by garbage, they know where to put it.  Those who own compost piles know that

  • God doesn’t waste anything
  • God uses even criticism to accomplish His purposes
  • Maturity means overcoming evil with good

Reacting to people who dump garbage on us means that the garbage makes its way into our souls rather than onto the compost pile. Responding to God enables us to put the garbage where it belongs. The difference between reacting and responding is about ten seconds, long enough to offer up a quick prayer and take deliberate action.

Here are two scriptures to help dispose of garbage:

“Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col. 3:8). “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

Forgiveness does not mean that people didn’t dump on us. It does not mean that we let them off the hook by saying that they didn’t hurt us. It does mean that we turn them over to the love and justice of God rather than trying to punish them by staying angry. Do you have a compost pile?  If so, you are a good gardener, and the fertilizer is developing fruit in your life. Garbage in the heart poisons us. Garbage properly used brings forth a rich garden.


A young man called to tell me he was being tempted to give in to porn. I said, “I have told many young men to do what you are now doing. You are the first to call before giving in. Others get prayer when they yield to temptation and need forgiveness to lift the shame. But you are ahead of the game; you are calling for strength to resist. Way to go. That is what it means to walk in the light, to share your weakness, to acknowledge that you need support. You’ll get it, and you will resist the devil.” I was proud of my young friend.

He was surprised. When I encouraged him to do this a few months before, he had assumed that because I had been mentoring young men for decades many would have called to solicit prayer at the front end. He was the first. We need to walk in the light together, to confess our weakness, and ask for help. How easily we pretend that we are strong when we are weak. We would see a thousand more victories among young men battling sexual temptation if they were willing to check in when they faced temptation, not only after they had given in. I hope that the victory my friend experienced by walking in the light encourages others to do the same.

One of my sons came to me and Karen as a young man. He was crying. He said, “I have felt like the flawed son in a flawless family.” I asked, “Didn’t I ever share with you my defeats? Haven’t your brothers talked with you?” No on both counts. How critical it is to walk in honesty, beginning in our families and continuing in the Christian community. Too many are trying to make it alone and failing. They need parents and leaders who model vulnerability, so they can share their weakness and need for support.

My favorite professor at seminary said, “The first thing I do when I mentor someone is to share my weaknesses.” Why does he do that? Because we are not used to sharing our dark side. We hide it even from friends. When we begin to meet with a mature brother or sister for mentoring, we don’t want to do what we most need to do–confess our struggles, our weaknesses, our failures. We want this person to think well of us, not to think that we are wimping out. So we shine the bright side. But if he or she starts with a weakness, then those being mentored are a bit more comfortable sharing the dark side. What a humble thing to do. In our pride, we prefer sharing our victories. But James urges us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). We would see more healing if we practiced more transparency.

One reason so many pastors are failing is that they have not practiced walking in the light. Some have been taught not to share personal matters with members, and they often lack close friends. They desperately need to learn to be vulnerable with other pastors and leaders. Otherwise, the epidemic will only continue. May God give you grace to walk in appropriate transparency–and see much victory!



.Letting others run over me (but it may)

.Always talking about my weaknesses (which puts too much focus on ME)

.Inappropriate sharing of personal failure, such as sexual sins in a mixed crowd

.Self-deprecation (as if to say, “Look at how bad I’ve been,” which some take joy in)

.Being vulnerable with the wrong people at the wrong time for wrong reasons. Think Hezekiah.

.Foolish tempting of the Lord, like taking risks He has not called us to (jumping off the temple).


“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8:26). That must also mean that the Spirit doesn’t help when we are trying to be strong. In my fear as a recovering Pharisee, I wanted to look strong, even though I knew I was weak. Trust me–that does not welcome the Holy Spirit.

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (I Cor.1:27). God has a marked predisposition toward the weak. How comforting can you get!

“I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling” (I Cor.2:3). The mighty apostle modeled weakness for all to see. He didn’t try to sound eloquent or look powerful. Impressive!

“Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (I Cor.12:22). Weakness is built into our anatomy.

“It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (I Cor.15:43). We go from great weakness to great strength. Great. The reverse is also true. Look out!

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor.11:29,30). Weakness helps us to identify with the weak. What kindness!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:9,10). Weakness is actually a weapon of war. It displays the power of God.

“He was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power”(2 Cor.13:4)). Weakness was modeled most clearly in the cross, the power of God unto salvation. Weakness goes the way of the cross, the way of self-denial.


God can turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength. Halleluia!

Weakness brings me God’s grace; it also encourages relationship and fellowship.

Weakness overcomes the devil, who would rather see me glorying in my strength.

Christ’s time of greatest weakness demonstrated God’s greatest power. Do you suppose that works for you as well?

God uses weakness to shame proud people.

Weakness encourages dependence upon God and interdependence with others.

Weakness facilitates healing (Js. 5:16) and brings the Spirit’s help.


Fear had made me want to look strong. Confidence in God allows me to live with my weakness. I became more vulnerable as I learned to deal with my pharisaism.  Self-righteousness chokes out vulnerability, because self-righteous people are in hiding, as I was.  When I started coming out, I discovered that vulnerability was really safer than running. Welcome to weak!


Weeping has its appropriate time. Paul gives us one occasion: “Weep with those who weep.” Our culture is not as good at weeping as some others. Perhaps these truths can help.

God gave you tear-ducts.
He has given you the equipment. It can happen, even for big boys. Enlist the eyes more than the tongue. When Job’s three friends heard of his troubled, they traveled to him. “When they saw him…they could hardly recognize him…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days…No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12,13). It got messy when they opened their mouths. Presence beats preaching!

Acts of kindness trump words. Hugs and hamburgers work well. And you do not need to represent God and correct the sloppy theology of the grieving. That will right itself in time.

One sign of love is the ability to weep with people. When my wife lost our son one week before his scheduled birth, Karen said on the phone to her brother, “Thanks for crying with me.” Paul told the Corinthian church, “If one part suffers, all suffers with it” (I Cor. 12:26).

God suffers with us.
The story of Hosea is a picture of God the grieving Lover, whose heart is wrenched by His prostituting wife. He knows what grief is about. The psalmist writes, “Put my tears in your bottle” (Ps 56:18). God saves the evidence of a broken heart.

The book of Judges tells stories of Israel’s roller coaster ride with rebellion and revival. At one point we read, “And God could bear Israel’s misery no longer” (Judges 10:16). God knows our pain and enters our sorrow. Isaiah wrote, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (63:9).

The psalmist said, “He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We sometimes feel that God is distant in our pain. This scripture tells us that He is closer than ever. God holds a bias for the broken.

Jesus wept.
He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” What a description for the triumphant Son of God. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, knowing He was going to raise him. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said in the garden, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. Watch here with me.” He asked for help in His grieving.

The Spirit Grieves
God the Father has emotions of joy and sorrow, anger and peace. Then the Spirit within us does as well. He doesn’t leave us when we violate His will, but He grieves. That is why we are commanded to offload destructive sin with the exhortation, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit…” (Eph. 4:30).

The People of God wept
After Moses died, “The Israelites grieved for…thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deut. 34:8). When Stephen was martyred, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (Acts 8:2). They did not just say, “Oh, we’ll see him in heaven.”

One day weeping will end. Tears will be wiped away. In the meantime, we cry. Don’t save up your tears, because you can’t use them in the new earth. If you need help, the Holy Spirit who knows how to grieve can help you.



…a line from The Coasters rock ‘n roll hit, “Yakety Yak” (1958). We haul garbage out Wednesday mornings. We’ve forgotten a few times, once when we had twenty-five people sleeping over. Trash overflowed like crazy. Neighbors thought we were. Once we were late—and I chased the truck in our van filled with garbage. Not real effective. No garbage—no need to put it out. Never happened at the Anderson’s.


Do you have regular trash collection at your home? How about in your heart? Any weeks when it accumulates and smells putrid? I returned from vacation once and found maggots in our trash.



  • unconfessed sin that festers. Read about its affect on the body (Psalm 32:3-5).
  • destructive emotions like resentment, hostility, anything alien to the soul, like cancer is to the body.
  • an old newspaper, a banana peel, or anger. It may have served a purpose yesterday, but leave it overnight and like manna it rots. Dump it. Cain didn’t. Instead of taking the garbage out, he took his brother out (Genesis 4:1-7). Sad!


Ever discuss what constitutes trash? What the Spirit calls garbage we may hold onto. Scripture says to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (12:1). We might have reasons for not dumping trash. It’s hard to repent, and many of us are out of practice. Some prefer living in denial (“I don’t have any garbage”), or make excuses (“everyone’s got it” or “that’s just who I am”). Trash thrives in the darkness. We hide it in the basement—or deep in our soul.



  1. Because of self-deception. “If we say we have no garbage, we deceive ourselves.” Others can smell it. Open your mouth and out comes cynicism, blame, or self-rejection. I didn’t realize that I still had garbage from seminary years before. It had not occurred to me that I needed to forgive a pastor. Once I pleaded with a young adult to dump the garbage that had accumulated in his life. He said that he couldn’t, and depression followed him around like a bad friend.


  1. Because trash can destroy us. Sharon hated her mom, and friend that dragged her forward for prayer. When I asked her if she wanted to get rid of garbage, she said, “I have to—it’s killing me.” Unforgiveness left untreated torments the soul (Matthew 18). If we have the symptoms—depression, passivity, inability to relate with others—look for garbage. Ask friends to help you.


  1. Because we don’t want trash on our minds. The more you dump it, the less you think about it. We are Christ-centered, cross-focused. Better to be Christ-conscious than sin-conscious. How? Dump the trash!



The early church practiced garbage collection: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). They discovered that walking in the light strengthened fellowship (I John 1:8) and released healing. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). We may assume that we are to confess to God. The context suggests confessing to one another.


Trash containers are collected weekly, but trash should be emptied daily. I use an acrostic to help guide me through my daily prayer (PRAY—praise, repentance, asking, yielding).


“Great, one more thing to do.” No, the gospel says, “Done,” not, “Do.” Jesus said, “It is finished.” He became the toxic waste dump of all humanity. He took out the garbage, all of it. Our job is easy compared to His. I can deal with garbage, because God has already declared me righteous in Christ and will finish what He has started. “Faithful is he who has called you, and HE WILL DO IT!”