fbpx
mm

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).

Even Leviticus

By |2024-02-29T01:33:26-05:00February 29th, 2024|

The topic was Leviticus, and I had a confession to make. “I skipped a lot of the reading,” I told my Bible study group. “I’m not reading about skin diseases again.”

That’s when my friend Dave spoke up. “I know a guy who believed in Jesus because of that passage,” he said. Dave explained that his friend—a doctor—had been an atheist. He decided that before he completely rejected the Bible, he’d better read it for himself. The section on skin diseases in Leviticus fascinated him. It contained surprising details about contagious and noncontagious sores (13:3–44) and how to treat them (14:8–9). He knew this far surpassed the medical knowledge of that day—yet there it was in Leviticus. There’s no way Moses could have known all this, he thought. The doctor began to consider that Moses really did receive his information from God. Eventually he put his faith in Jesus.  

If parts of the Bible bore you, well, I’m with you. But everything it says is there for a reason. Leviticus was written so the Israelites would know how to live for Him. As we learn more about this relationship between God and His people, we learn about God Himself.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, wrote the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:16). Let’s read on. Even Leviticus.

Extending Dignity

By |2024-02-05T01:33:17-05:00February 5th, 2024|

Maggie’s guest showed up in church shockingly dressed. No one should have been surprised though; her young friend was a prostitute. Maggie’s visitor shifted uneasily in her seat, alternately tugging at her much-too-short skirt and folding her arms self-consciously around herself.

“Oh, are you cold?” Maggie asked, deftly diverting attention away from how she was dressed. “Here! Take my shawl.”

Maggie never evangelized in the traditional sense. Yet she introduced dozens of people to Jesus simply by inviting them to come to church and helping them feel comfortable. The gospel had a way of shining through her winsome methods. She treated everyone with dignity.

When religious leaders dragged a woman before Jesus with the harsh (and accurate) charge of adultery, Christ kept the attention off her until He sent her accusers away. Once they were gone, He could have scolded her. Instead, He asked two simple questions: “Where are they?” and “Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). The answer to the latter question, of course, was no. So Jesus gave her the gospel in one brief statement: “Then neither do I condemn you.” And then the invitation: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).

Never underestimate the power of genuine love for people—the kind of love that refuses to condemn, even as it extends dignity and forgiveness to everyone.  

The Meaning of Myrrh

By |2024-01-06T01:33:24-05:00January 6th, 2024|

Today is Epiphany—the event described by the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” It’s the time when Gentile wisemen visited the child Jesus. Yet they weren’t kings, they weren’t from the Far East (as Orient formerly meant), and it’s unlikely there were three of them.

There were, however, three gifts, and the carol considers each. When the magi arrived in Bethlehem, “They opened their treasures and presented [Jesus] with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). The gifts symbolize Jesus’ mission. Gold represents His role as King. Frankincense, mixed with the incense burned in the sanctuary, speaks of His deity.

Myrrh, used to embalm dead bodies, gives us pause. The fourth verse of the carol says, “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume / breathes a life of gathering gloom; / sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, / sealed in the stone-cold tomb.” We wouldn’t write such a scene into the story, but God did. Jesus’ death is central to our salvation. Herod even attempted to kill Jesus while He was yet a child (v. 13).

The carol’s last verse weaves the three themes together: “Glorious now behold him arise; / King and God and sacrifice.” This completes the story of Christmas, inspiring our response: “Alleluia, Alleluia, / sounds through the earth and skies.”

The Son Also Rises

By |2024-01-02T01:33:16-05:00January 2nd, 2024|

Ernest Hemingway’s first full-length novel features hard-drinking friends who have recently endured World War I. They bear the scars, literal and figurative, of the war’s devastation and try to cope with it via parties, grand adventures, and sleeping around. Always, there is alcohol to numb the pain. No one is happy.

Hemingway’s title for his book, The Sun Also Rises, comes straight from the pages of Ecclesiastes (1:5 nkjv). In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon refers to himself as “the Teacher.” He observes, “Everything is meaningless” (v. 1) and asks, “What do people gain from all their labors?” (v. 3). Solomon saw how the sun rises and sets, the wind blows to and fro, the rivers flow endlessly into a never satisfied sea (vv. 5–7). Ultimately, all is forgotten (v. 11).

Both Hemingway and Ecclesiastes confront us with the stark futility of living for this life only. Solomon, however, weaves bright hints of the divine into his book. There is permanence—and real hope. Ecclesiastes shows us as we truly are, but it also shows God as He is. “Everything God does will endure forever,” said Solomon (3:14), and therein lies our great hope. For God has given us the gift of us His Son Jesus.

Apart from God, we’re adrift in an endless, never satisfied sea. Through His risen Son Jesus, we’re reconciled to Him. We discover our meaning, value, and purpose.

Surrendering to Jesus

By |2023-12-03T01:33:06-05:00December 3rd, 2023|

In 1951, Joseph Stalin’s doctor advised him to reduce his workload in order to preserve his health. The ruler of the Soviet Union accused the physician of spying and had him arrested. The tyrant who had oppressed so many with lies could not abide the truth, and—as he had done so many times—Stalin removed the one who told him the facts. Truth won anyway. Stalin died in 1953.

The prophet Jeremiah, arrested for his dire prophecies (Jeremiah 38:1–6), told the king of Judah exactly what would happen to Jerusalem. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you,” he said to King Zedekiah (v. 20). Failure to surrender to the army surrounding the city would only make matters worse. “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians,” Jeremiah warned. “You yourself will not escape from their hands” (v. 23).

Zedekiah failed to act on that truth, and he left God’s prophet in chains (see 40:1). Eventually the Babylonians caught the king, killed all his sons, and burned the city (ch. 39).

In a sense, every human being faces Zedekiah’s dilemma. We’re trapped inside the walls of our own life of sin and poor choices. Often, we make things worse by avoiding those who tell us the truth about ourselves. All we need to do is surrender to the will of the One who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to [God] the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Lucky Boots

By |2023-11-11T01:33:40-05:00November 11th, 2023|

Too late, Tom felt the chilling “click” beneath his combat boots. Instinctively he bounded away in an adrenaline-fueled leap. The deadly device hidden underground didn’t detonate. Later, the explosive ordnance disposal team unearthed eighty pounds of high explosives from the spot. Tom wore those boots until they fell apart. “My lucky boots,” he calls them.

Tom may have clung to those boots simply to commemorate his close call. But people are often tempted to consider objects “lucky” or to even give them the more spiritual label “blessed.” Danger arrives when we credit an object—even a symbol—as a source of God’s blessing.

The Israelites learned this the hard way. The Philistine army had just routed them in battle. As Israel reviewed the debacle, someone thought of taking the “ark of the LORD’s covenant” into a rematch (1 Samuel 4:3). That seemed like a good idea (vv. 6–9). After all, the ark of the covenant was a holy object.

But the Israelites had the wrong perspective. By itself, the ark couldn’t bring them anything. Putting their faith in an object instead of in the presence of the one true God, the Israelites suffered an even worse defeat, and the enemy captured the ark (v. 10).

Mementos that remind us to pray or to thank God for His goodness are fine. But they’re never the source of blessing. That is God—and God alone.

Worth It to Follow Jesus

By |2023-11-01T02:33:32-04:00November 1st, 2023|

Ronit came from a religious but non-Christian family. Their discussions about spiritual matters were dry and academic. “I kept praying all the prayers,” she said, “but I wasn’t hearing [from God].”

She began to study the Bible. Slowly, steadily, she inched toward faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Ronit describes the defining moment: “I heard a clear voice in my heart saying, ‘You’ve heard enough. You’ve seen enough. It’s time to just believe.’ ” But Ronit faced a problem: her father. “My dad was like Mount Vesuvius erupted,” she recalls.

When Jesus walked this earth, crowds followed Him (Luke 14:25). We don’t’ know exactly what they were looking for, but He was looking for disciples. And that comes with a cost. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple,” He said (v. 26). He told a story about building a tower. “Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost?” He asked (v. 28). Jesus’ point wasn’t that we’re to literally hate family; rather, it’s that we must choose Him over everything else. He said, “You who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (v. 33).

Ronit loves her family deeply, yet she concluded, “Whatever the cost, I figured it’s worth it.” What might you need to give up to follow Jesus as He guides You?

Who Am I?

By |2023-10-16T02:33:08-04:00October 16th, 2023|

Kizombo sat watching the campfire, pondering the great questions of his life. What have I accomplished? he thought. Too quickly the answer came back: not much, really. He was back in the land of his birth, serving at the school his father had started deep in the rainforest. He was also trying to write his father’s powerful story of surviving two civil wars. Who am I to try to do all this?

Kizombo’s misgivings sound like those of Moses. God had just given Moses a mission: “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Moses replied, “Who am I?” (v. 11).

After some weak excuses from Moses, God asked him, “What is that in your hand?” It was a staff (4:2). At God’s direction, Moses threw it on the ground. The staff turned into a snake. Against his instincts, Moses picked it up. Again, it became a staff (v. 4). In God’s power, Moses could face Pharaoh. He literally had one of the “gods” of Egypt—a snake—in his hand. Egypt’s gods were no threat to the one true God.

Kizombo thought of Moses, and he sensed God’s answer: You have Me and My Word. He thought too of friends who encouraged him to write his father’s story so others would learn of God’s power in his life. He wasn’t alone.  

On our own, our best efforts are inadequate. But we serve the God who says, “I will be with you” (3:12).

All the Answers

By |2023-09-23T02:33:16-04:00September 23rd, 2023|

Dale Earnhardt Jr. describes the awful moment he understood his father was gone. Motor racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. had just been killed in a horrific crash at the end of the Daytona 500—a race in which Dale Jr. had also participated. “There’s this noise coming outta me that I can’t re-create,” said the younger Earnhardt. “[It’s] this bellow of shock and sorrow—and fear.” And then the lonely truth: “I’m gonna have to do this by myself.”

“Having Dad was like having a cheat sheet,” Earnhardt Jr. explained. “Having Dad was like knowing all the answers.”

Jesus’ disciples had learned to look to Him for all the answers. Now, on the eve of His crucifixion, He assured them He wouldn’t leave them alone. “I will ask the Father,” Jesus said, “and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16–17).

Jesus extended that comfort to all who would believe in Him. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” He said. “My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (v. 23).

Those who choose to follow Christ have within them the Spirit who teaches them “all things” and reminds them of everything Jesus taught (v. 26). We don’t have all the answers, but we have the Spirit of the One who does.

The Message of the Prophets

By |2023-09-15T02:33:29-04:00September 15th, 2023|

Before baseball’s 1906 World Series, sportswriter Hugh Fullerton made an astute prediction. He said the Chicago Cubs, who were expected to win, would lose the first and third games and win the second. Oh, and it would rain on the fourth. He was right on each point. Then, in 1919, his analytical skills told him certain players were losing World Series games intentionally. Fullerton suspected they’d been bribed by gamblers. Popular opinion ridiculed him. Again, he was right.

Fullerton was no prophet—just a wise man who studied the evidence. Jeremiah was a real prophet whose prophecies always came true. Wearing an ox yoke, Jeremiah told Judah to surrender to the Babylonians and live (Jeremiah 27:2, 12). The false prophet Hananiah contradicted him and broke the yoke (28:2–4, 10). Jeremiah told him, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you,” and added, “This very year you are going to die” (vv. 15–16). Two months later, Hananiah was dead (v. 17).

The New Testament tells us, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets . . . , but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2). Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and through the Scriptures and guidance of the Holy Spirit, God’s truth still instructs us today.

Go to Top