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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…


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…


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.”…


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…


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

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.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

> daily devotional


I once met a beautiful East African girl named Mercy, a patient at a hospital where I volunteered in Kampala, Uganda. During one of my visits, the girl’s teenage brother summoned me to his sister’s bed. He explained that their parents had died and he, at age 14, was his sister’s sole caregiver. “I have learned you and a Mzungu man [my friend, David Kuo] gave pillows to the patients last week,” he said. “My sister, named Mercy, wasn’t here when you came. She has never slept on a pillow before. Would you please bring her one?”

A Chance

“How could anyone abandon their baby?” my friend asked. We had just heard another sad account of an infant being discovered in a public restroom. This story, at least, had a happy ending—the baby was okay.

A Revelation of Intimacy

In December 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met LeBron James, the most famous basketball player in the US. Despite the fact that one of his nicknames is “King James,” he is in fact not royalty, and protocol demanded that he should not touch the Duke or Duchess. Not knowing this, LeBron put his arm around the couple and posed for a photograph. This was a shocking break in decorum for some, but the royal couple seemed comfortable and shared that they enjoyed meeting “King” James.

> 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

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

taste and see

A friend posted a crockpot recipe on her Facebook page. The meal looked good, so I downloaded the recipe—intending to use it one day. The following week, another friend said she was looking for some good slow-cooker meals to prepare, so I emailed her the crockpot recipe I had seen on Facebook. She, in turn, forwarded it to several friends who passed it on as well.

Whose Opinion Matters?

I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”

> health

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.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

hope deferred

As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

> relationships

Be Reconciled

They sit beside each other on a straw mat—he in beige trousers and a white-and-purple shirt, she in a blue-and-yellow dress. “I participated in the killing of the son of this woman,” says Francois, one of thousands of Hutu men that perpetrated crimes against Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “He killed my child,” says Epiphanie, “then he came to ask my pardon.”

alone in the dark

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone—a brilliant biomedical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Her partner for the journey is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. During a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone, tethered to nothing but each other, and ominously spiraling out into blackness.

small spark

In 2004, a man went over a dry, brown patch of grass while mowing his lawn. A blade on the mower struck a rock and created a spark, which resulted in a fire that soon raged out of control. The resulting catastrophe, known as the Bear Fire, blackened 10,484 acres of land and destroyed more than 80 homes. To put out the blaze required the efforts of 33 fire crews and 42 fire engines.

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> touch-your-world