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About 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).

In This Together

By |2022-08-01T02:33:13-04:00August 1st, 2022|

Kelly was battling brain cancer when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Then fluid developed around her heart and lungs and she had to be hospitalized again. Her family couldn’t visit because of the pandemic. Her husband, Dave, vowed to do something.

Gathering loved ones together, Dave asked them to make large signs with messages. They did. Wearing masks, twenty people stood on the street outside the hospital holding signs: “BEST MOM!” “LOVE YOU.” “WE ARE WITH U.” With the help of a nurse, Kelly made her way to a fourth-floor window. “All we could see was a facemask and a waving hand,” her husband posted on social media, “but it was a beautiful facemask and waving hand.”

Late in his life, the apostle Paul felt alone as he languished in a Roman prison. He wrote to Timothy, “Do your best to get here before winter” (2 Timothy 4:21). Yet Paul wasn’t totally alone. “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength,” he said (v. 17). And it’s also apparent that he had some encouraging contact with other believers. “Eubulus greets you,” he said to Timothy, “and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters” (v. 21).

We’re created for community, and we feel that most keenly when we’re in crisis. What might you do for someone who may feel entirely alone today?  

God of the Garden

By |2022-07-26T02:33:04-04:00July 26th, 2022|

Many years ago, Joni Mitchell wrote a song called “Woodstock” in which she saw the human race trapped in a “bargain” with the devil. Urging her listeners to seek a simpler, more peaceful existence, she sang of a return to “the garden.” Mitchell spoke for a generation longing for purpose and meaning.

Mitchell’s poetical “garden” is Eden, of course. Eden was the paradise God created for us back in the beginning. In this garden, Adam and Eve met with God on a regular basis—until the day they made their bargain with the devil (see Genesis 3:6–7). That day was different. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (v. 8).

When God asked what they’d done, Adam and Eve engaged in a lot of blame-shifting. Despite their denial, God didn’t leave them there. He “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (v. 21), a sacrifice that hinted at the death Jesus would endure to cover our sins.

God didn’t give us a way back to Eden. He gave us a way forward into restored relationship with Him. We can’t return to the garden. But we can return to the God of the garden.

Drastic Measures

By |2022-06-23T09:06:02-04:00June 23rd, 2022|

The ornate ceremonial bow and quiver had hung on the wall of our home in Michigan for years. I’d inherited them from my father, who acquired the souvenirs while we were serving as missionaries in Ghana.

Then one day a Ghanaian friend visited us. When he saw the bow, he got a strange look on his face. Pointing to a small object tied to it he said, “That is a fetish—a magic charm. I know it has no power, but I would not keep it in my house.” Quickly we cut the charm from the bow and discarded it. We didn’t want anything in our home intended for the worship of something other than God.

Josiah, king in Jerusalem, grew up with little knowledge of God’s expectations for His people. When the high priest rediscovered the Book of the Law in the long-neglected temple (2 Kings 22:8), Josiah wanted to hear it. As soon as he learned what God had said about idolatry, he ordered sweeping changes to bring Judah into compliance with God’s law—changes far more drastic than merely cutting a charm from a bow (see 2 Kings 23:3–7).

Believers today have more than King Josiah did—much, much more. We have the entire Bible to instruct us. We have each other. And we have the vital filling of the Holy Spirit, who brings things to light, large and small, that we might otherwise overlook.

Rejecting Rationalization

By |2022-06-09T09:06:03-04:00June 9th, 2022|

An Atlanta police officer asked a driver if she knew why he had stopped her. “No idea!” she said in bewilderment. “Ma’am, you were texting while driving,” the officer gently told her. “No, no!” she protested, holding up her cell phone as evidence. “It’s an email.”

Using a cell phone to send an email doesn’t grant us a loophole from a law that prohibits texting while driving! The point of the law isn’t to prevent texting; it’s to prevent distracted driving.

Jesus accused the religious leaders of His day of creating far worse loopholes. “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God,” He said, quoting the command to “Honor your father and mother” as evidence (Mark 7:9–10). Under the hypocritical cloak of religious devotion, these wealthy leaders were neglecting their families. They simply declared their money as “devoted to God,” and voila, no need to help Mom and Dad in their old age. Jesus quickly got to the heart of the problem. “You nullify the word of God by your tradition,” He said (v. 13). They weren’t honoring God; they were dishonoring their parents.

Rationalization can be so subtle. With it we avoid responsibilities, explain away selfish behavior, and reject God’s direct commands. If that describes our behavior, we’re merely deceiving ourselves. Jesus offers us the opportunity to exchange our selfish tendencies for the guidance of the Spirit behind His Father’s good instructions.

The Forecaster’s Mistake

By |2022-05-27T09:06:11-04:00May 27th, 2022|

In 1854, a young Russian artillery officer viewed the battlefield carnage occurring far below his cannon’s hilltop placement. “It’s a funny sort of pleasure,” Leo Tolstoy wrote, “to see people killing each other. And yet, every morning and every evening, I would . . . spend hours at a time watching.”

Tolstoy’s outlook soon changed. After seeing firsthand the devastation and suffering in the city of Sevastopol, he wrote, “You understand all at once, and quite differently from what you have before, the significance of those sounds of shots which you heard in the city.”

The prophet Jonah once climbed a hill to view the devastation of Nineveh (Jonah 4:5). He’d just warned that brutal city of God’s looming judgment. But Nineveh repented, and Jonah was disappointed. The city, however, relapsed into evil, and a century later the prophet Nahum described its destruction. “Shields flash red in the sunlight!” he wrote. “Watch as their glittering chariots move into position, with a forest of spears waving above them” (Nahum 2:3 nlt).

Because of Nineveh’s persistent sin, God sent punishment. But He’d told Jonah, “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness. . . . Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:11 nlt).

God justice and love go together. Nahum shows the consequences of evil. Jonah reveals God’s keen compassion for even the worst of us. His heart’s desire is that we repent and extend that compassion to others.

Monkeying with the Cosmos

By |2022-05-15T09:06:05-04:00May 15th, 2022|

In the early 1980s, a prominent astronomer who didn’t believe in God wrote, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” To this scientist’s eye, the evidence showed that something had designed everything we observe in the cosmos. He added, “There are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” In other words, everything we see looks as if it was planned by Someone. And yet, the astronomer remained an atheist.

Three thousand years ago, another intelligent man looked at the skies and drew a different conclusion. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” wondered David (Psalm 8:3–4).

Yet God cares for us deeply. The universe tells the story of its Intelligent Designer, the “Super Intellect” who made our minds and put us here to ponder His work. Through Jesus and His creation, God can be known. Paul wrote, “[Christ] existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth” (Colossians 1:15–16, nlt).

The cosmos has indeed been “monkeyed with.” The identity of the Intelligent Designer is there to be discovered by anyone willing to seek.

Not So

By |2022-04-16T09:06:02-04:00April 16th, 2022|

Read: Luke 23:49–56 | Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 30–31; Luke 13:23–35 Play/Pause Mute/Unmute Vol+ Vol- Download Download MP3 Subscribe to iTunesAll those who knew him . . . stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:49 “I wanted somehow to make it not so,” lamented the man, eulogizing a friend who died [...]

“And It Was Night”

By |2022-04-14T09:06:03-04:00April 14th, 2022|

Eli Wiesel’s novel Night starkly confronts us with the horrors of the Holocaust. Based on his own experiences in Nazi death camps, Wiesel’s account flips the biblical story of the Exodus. While Moses and the Israelites escaped slavery at the first Passover (Exodus 12), Wiesel tells of the SS arresting Jewish leaders following Passover.

Lest we criticize Wiesel and his dark irony, consider that the Bible contains a similar plot twist. On the night of Passover, Jesus, expected to free God’s people from suffering, instead permits Himself to be arrested by those who would kill Him.

John ushers us into the holy scene before Jesus’s arrest. “Troubled in spirit” over what awaited Him, at the Last Supper Jesus predicted His betrayal (John 13:21). Then, in an act we can scarcely comprehend, Christ served His betrayer bread. The account reads: “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night” (v. 30). History’s greatest injustice was underway, yet Jesus declared, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him” (v. 31). In a few hours, the disciples would experience panic, defeat, and dejection. But Jesus saw God’s plan unfolding as it should.

When it seems as though the darkness is winning, recall that our Lord faced His dark night and defeated it. He walks with us. It will not always be night.

Lost to the Past

By |2022-03-21T09:06:03-04:00March 21st, 2022|

Upset with the corruption and extravagance plaguing his kingdom, Korea’s King Yeongjo (1694–1776) decided to change things. In a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, he banned the traditional art of gold-thread embroidery as excessively opulent. Soon, knowledge of that intricate process vanished into the past.

In 2011, Professor Sim Yeon-ok wanted to reclaim that long-lost tradition. Surmising that gold leaf had been glued onto mulberry paper and then hand-cut into slender strands, she was able to recreate the process, reviving an ancient art form.

In the book of Exodus, we learn of the extravagant measures employed to construct the tabernacle—including gold thread to make Aaron’s priestly garments. Skilled craftsmen “hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen” (Exodus 39:3). What happened to all that exquisite craftsmanship? Did the garments simply wear out? Were they eventually carried off as plunder? Was it all in vain? Not at all! Every aspect of the effort was done because God had given specific instructions to do it.  

God has given each of us something to do as well. It may be a simple act of kindness—something to give back to Him as we serve each other. We need not concern ourselves with what will happen to our efforts in the end (1 Corinthians 15:58). Any task done for our Father becomes a thread extending into eternity.

The Challenge of the Stars

By |2022-02-23T08:06:04-05:00February 23rd, 2022|

In the early twentieth century, Italian poet F. T. Marinetti launched Futurism, an artistic movement rejecting the past, scoffing at traditional ideas of beauty, and glorifying instead machinery. In 1909 Marinetti wrote his Manifesto of Futurism, in which he declared “contempt for women,” praised “the blow with the fist,” and asserted, “We want to glorify war.” The manifesto concludes: “Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars!”

Five years after Marinetti’s manifesto, modern warfare began in earnest. World War I did not bring glory. Marinetti himself died in 1944. The stars, still in place, took no notice.

King David sang poetically of the stars but with a dramatically different outlook. He wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3–4). David’s question isn’t one of disbelief but of amazed humility. He knew that the God who made this vast cosmos is indeed mindful of us. He notices every detail about us—the good, the bad, the humble, the insolent—even the absurd.

It’s pointless to challenge the stars. Rather, they challenge us to praise our Creator. 

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