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tim gustafson

tim gustafson

Tim is married to Leisa, his wife of more than 25 years. They have 8 children together—their only daughter is the eldest, and then 7 boys in a row! He has served as an editor and writer for Our Daily Bread Ministries for more than 20 years including his current role as senior content editor. As the adopted son of missionaries, Tim spent his childhood in Ghana, an experience that gave him a passionate love for mangoes, tropical weather, and the football you play with your feet. (He loves the American variety of football too, but he never was very good at it.) In addition to Ghana, he has lived in Turkey and in Mindanao, as well as 8 different states in the USA. Despite his dislike of cold weather, he chose to attend Michigan State University and calls Michigan home. Tim cites as his biggest influences Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, and his now-departed dad, who loved the power of words but most of all, loved the power of the Word (see John 1:1-14). Tim’s life verses come from Psalm 68:5-6. “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Articles by tim gustafson

just one thing right

"I prayed really hard,” she said, “‘Please, God, could just one thing go right for me?’ And one hour later I got a horrid case of the flu!” At the precipice of bitterness, she had legitimate questions. She cried out to God. And she got what seemed to be a divine prank!

Suffering touches all of us. But when someone…

red barn in the andes

All roads may lead to Rome, but the most dangerous road leads to Coroico, a terminal stop on Bolivia’s El Camino de la Muerte—the Road of Death. The road may be deadly, but it’s also spectacular. Clinging to the sides of the verdant, misty Andes Mountains, the sliver of highway slices through panoramic vistas and tiptoes along unforgiving drop-offs that…

living in fear

The subtitle under Genesis 26 in my Bible reads: “Isaac Deceives Abimelech.” Pardon my irreverence, but it might just as well have read: “Isaac Nearly Pimps His Wife.”

Isaac is such a patriarch of the faith that he makes the final cut when we speak of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Yet at a time when he should…

weeds

As a child growing up in Ghana’s Upper Region, I used to help Mom and Dad in their garden. To this day, the aroma of tomatoes ripening on the vine makes me nostalgic for tropical climes and simpler times.

Dad, who had attended an agricultural school, used to coach me as I worked. “A weed is any plant that’s not…

sin management

We once lived across the road from Aman Nature Park, which was wonderful—except for the raccoons. Oh sure, they’re fascinating creatures. But the masklike band of black across their eyes should have alerted us to one vital detail: Raccoons are felons in fur. And the scene of the crime was our yard.

When we suspected raccoons of being responsible for…

weary

I found him wearying. He incessantly “shared” stories of the personal wrongs done to him with anyone who would listen, and frankly, it had become a burden. So I started avoiding him. Yes, I know that’s not what Jesus would do. But it’s what I did.

I know others in far worse circumstances than he—yet they’re a delight to be…

loaded questions

If making your guest squirm uncomfortably is the measure of success, then the TV journalist performed magnificently. Referring to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the reporter asserted to a religious leader: “Either God is all-powerful and He doesn’t care about the people of Japan and their suffering, or He does care about the people but He’s not really powerful.…

upstairs downstairs

Walk into her house and a showcase living room quickly commands your attention. Ornate, expensive furniture populates rooms tastefully embellished with understated artwork. A lavish floral arrangement adorns a perfectly lit breakfast nook.

But no one ever sits on the furniture. The flower-shaped soaps in the soap dish never clean anyone’s hands; the towels in the kitchen and bathroom don’t…

phantom lions

When I was a child, my dad would scare my brother and me by hiding in a thicket and growling like a lion. Living in the bush country of Africa, the possibility of encountering a carnivorous feline was real to us. Regardless, we would laugh delightedly whenever we heard the growl—thrilled by Dad’s act.

One day, a young friend came…

free solo

A recent article in National Geographic Magazine published remarkable images of climbers as they scaled the sheer rock face of Yosemite’s 2,916- ft. (889 meters) El Capitan. Astonishingly, some of the climbers make portions of the ascent without safety ropes in a death-taunting exercise known as “free solo.” These guys literally live on the edge.

Some of the most hard-core climbers…

perfect parents

I don’t know what else I can do!” my exasperated friend sulked. “I set high standards for my kids and hold them accountable for their actions, and all they do is hate me. What did I do to deserve this?” He noted how he has always been “hard” (his word) on his son so that he would do great things.…

before the eulogy

In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper slinked off for a few days away without telling anyone. Back home, their distraught loved ones assumed they had drowned, so they held a funeral. The boys—being boys—sneaked back into town and watched the funeral from the rafters of the church. There they enjoyed hearing the good…

the small stuff

How has your ministry been able to thrive in these tough economic times?” someone asked the leader of a nonprofit organization. “It’s because of the small gifts,” he said without hesitation. “The big gifts dry up when things get tough. But we have a lot of people who make small donations, and they give faithfully out of what they have.”…

enemies

I am forced to preach under something of a handicap this morning,” said Dr. Martin Luther King on a November day in 1957. His physician had instructed him to stay in bed, but King insisted on speaking.

Paraphrasing the words of Jesus, he declared to the congregation at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama: “You have heard that it…

questions

A recent televised interview captured my attention. The author of a controversial book kept responding to questions by saying, “That’s a great question.” And then he would orbit that “great question” without ever landing on an answer.

Jesus surely frustrated the “interviewers” who came to see Him in Matthew 21. “By what authority are you doing all these things?” they…

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> christian living

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

> daily devotional

Unfailing Love

A friend of mine got divorced after her husband left her for another woman. Years later I was talking with her father when the subject of their broken marriage came up. “That’s when [vulgar word] was still around,” he said. “That’s what I like to call him: [vulgar word].”

Fit for a King

A man known as the “king of cocaine” built an island hideaway known to the locals as the big house. It featured a marble lobby and an enormous pool ringed by palm trees. The now-deceased man’s estate included multiple waterfront dwellings where 300 guests could lodge in luxury. Gardens, boats, and a helicopter landing pad all displayed the “king’s” immense but wrongly amassed wealth.

Paint Your Leaf

In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Loving God, Loving Others

While watching the orbit of Uranus, astronomers noticed that the planet didn’t seem to orbit as expected, almost as if there was another unknown planet nearby whose gravity was pulling Uranus toward it. Using mathematics, the scientists were able to compute both the position and the mass of this unknown object and then observed it for the first time in 1846: the previously unknown planet Neptune. Math allowed them to identify Neptune before they could even see it!

Shine Brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

Lottie’s Legacy

The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

What’s Your Fragrance?

A colleague approached me in front of some coworkers and asked, “So what’s your attitude, as a Christian, to euthanasia?” Everyone stopped their conversation and all eyes were on me. I spent 20 minutes not in debate, but trying to share the aroma of Christ with those who didn’t know Him: His love, compassion, unchanging character, and absolute righteousness. As I shared about Jesus and His love, I prayed that my coworkers would get a whiff of the character of God—not the erudite arguments of a theologian.

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world