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Tim Gustafson

Tim Gustafson

Tim Gustafson writes for Our Daily Bread and Our Daily Journey and serves as an editor for Discovery Series. As the adopted son of missionaries to Ghana, Tim has an unusual perspective on life in the West. He and his wife, Leisa, are the parents of one daughter and seven sons. Perhaps not surprisingly, his life verses say: “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” (Ps. 68:5-6 nlt).

Articles by Tim Gustafson

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.


Augustine’s Confessions traces his journey through misspent youth, false religion, and finally to Jesus. As a man with much to confess, Augustine was sometimes tempted to be defensive. A translation of one of his prayers says: “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.”

I Got This

I had been doing well in my university classes and assumed that my upcoming logic exam was no big deal. A lukewarm sense of complacency settled over me. You might sum up my attitude as “I got this!”

living large

When a family member of two of my co-workers was killed in a construction accident, the love for this outgoing outdoorsman, faithful husband, and father of two was on full display. The country church he called home couldn’t possibly handle all the mourners, so the service was moved to a larger sanctuary. Friends and family flooded the church building! And the unspoken message of the abundant attendees was clear: Tim Dougherty touched many lives in a way that was uniquely his because he lived life with his strong, loving arms wrapped around his family and friends.

a basket of fruit

A wistful sigh escaped from the young mother as she made lunch for her daughter. Staring at the empty basket on the table in their cramped living space, she thought, We can’t even afford fruit. Then she said out loud, “If we could just have a basket of fruit, I would feel rich!”

Devouring the Poor

In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbors and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighborhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.

Bold Bridges

Dale’s neighborhood is home to many newcomers to his country. He loves the cultural richness but has felt a disconnection from it. So recently he prayed: “Lord, please use me to reach my neighborhood.” And he felt God’s simple, gentle nudge: Be a friend.

Crossing the Line

The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.


If the book of Judges were turned into a miniseries, we wouldn’t permit young children to view it. The book shows life in early Israel as violent, ugly, and self-serving. Villains abounded. One such bad guy was Abimelech, the son of the heroic Gideon (see Judges 9:1-5,50-56). Spoiler alert: He killed all his brothers except one and usurped power for himself. He also met an interesting demise.


Dave gazed at the magnificent network of trails reaching into the Canadian wetlands before him. At the swampier sections, timbers strategically placed between patches of terra firma served to keep hikers dry—in theory.

Of Words and Priests

My friend’s son loves building things. One time when he was just 10 years old, he tried to construct a treehouse from scratch. Although the structure looked pretty sound, upon close inspection its mounting wasn’t true. My friend’s son needed knowledge and instruction to create a wooden dwelling that was structurally solid and would last.

A Different Unity

A group of churches in our city came together to do a neighborhood cleanup. The shared project went so well that they now exchange choirs and praise bands and have multichurch picnics. Oh sure, there are things they disagree on. But to them, Jesus is a reason for unity.

the front porch

In some hills of the USA’s mid-South, much of life is lived on the front porch. Neighbors stop by unannounced for a glass of sweet tea or cup of coffee. No invitation is ever necessary.

pure persistence

My neighbor wondered how raccoons kept getting into his commercial trash bin. Covered by two sturdy lids hinged side-by-side, the Dumpster looked raccoon-proof. It wasn’t.

rejection and success

My colleagues and I were eating dinner with an author when she posed this question: “What do you like least about your job?” I had been working in publishing for several years, and instantly I knew my answer. “I don’t like crushing people’s dreams,” I said. “I don’t like telling them that their manuscript ‘doesn’t meet our needs.’ ”

Related Topics

> 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