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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…

Related Topics

> christian living

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

> daily devotional

He Will Handle It

When I take my kids to a playground, they tumble out of the car and race to the swings or slides. I usually sit on a bench with my purse, containing important medicine, close by. The meds aren’t for me; they’re for my daughter. She has a health condition that can go from bad to worse in seconds. I carry her meds because I don’t want her to have to think about them while she’s playing. How could she dangle from the monkey bars while holding her EpiPen auto-injectors? How could she grasp the metal ropes of a swing while juggling a medication bag?

Always Loved

In spite of my many fatherly mess-ups (and lately I feel as if I’ve had more than a few), my deepest hope for my two sons is that they will know I love them, and that my love comes from God. If you want to prod me to tears, get me to talk about my hopes for my sons. There are few places where I could feel more anxiety than when I consider the uncertain future: Will they grow up to be good men? Will they follow truth and life? But what I do know, without doubt, is that I love my boys fiercely—that I have always done so and will always love them.

Run with It!

Siobhan Dowd, a British author of young adult novels, died of cancer at age 47. After her death another author, Patrick Ness, was commissioned to finish one of her unpublished stories. A Monster Calls was published in 2011. It was a stunning success, winning both the Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medals, prestigious book awards in the UK. In the introduction, Ness says, “I felt—and feel—as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it.’ ”

> 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

Climb On!

George Mallory was an English mountaineer who was last seen heading toward the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. It’s possible he actually reached its peak but succumbed to the weather on the way down. We’ll never know what happened, for the details passed with the great explorer. Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” This may make no sense to most people, but to a mountaineer it is perfectly logical. Climbing the mountain is something to strive toward that’s an end in itself. The impressive peak is all the fuel Mallory and countless other mountaineers have ever needed.

Real Faith

I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!

If It’s Really You . . .

A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”

> 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

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”