Our Authors

View All
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

It’s Not About the Fish

Sighted numerous times off the coast of Australia’s South Queensland, Migaloo is the first albino humpback whale ever documented. The splendid creature, estimated at over forty feet long, is so rare that Australia passed a law specifically to protect him.

The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. The Lord told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).

Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even as his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).

The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.

Officer Miglio’s Heart

Back at the police station, Officer Miglio slumped wearily against a wall. A domestic violence call had just consumed half his shift. Its aftermath left a boyfriend in custody, a young daughter in the emergency room, and a shaken mother wondering how it had come to this. This call would wear on the young officer for a long time.

“Nothing you could do, Vic,” said his sergeant sympathetically. But the words rang hollow. Some police officers seem able to leave their work at work. Not Vic Miglio. Not the tough cases like this one.

Officer Miglio’s heart reflects the compassion of Jesus, who loved children and had a stern warning for any who would harm them (Matthew 18:6). But Jesus gave us some instructive hope along with that warning. Calling a small child to Him, He told His disciples, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3).

What did Jesus mean? Simply this. We can’t earn God’s favor. Even the toughest and most competent of us needs a childlike faith in Jesus. That’s why Jesus also said, “Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 4).

Earthly families can fail their children. Not so our heavenly Father, who invites us through childlike faith in Jesus to become His sons and daughters.

Unfrozen

At a roundtable discussion about reconciliation, one participant wisely said, “Don’t freeze people in time.” He observed how we tend to remember mistakes people make and never grant them the opportunity to change.

There are so many moments in Peter’s life when God could have “frozen” him in time. But He never did. Peter—the impulsive disciple—“corrected” Jesus, earning a sharp rebuke from the Lord (Matthew 16:21–23). He famously denied Christ (John 18:15–27), only to be restored later (John 21:15–19). And he once contributed to racial divisions within the church.

The issue arose when Peter (also called Cephas) had separated himself from the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11–12). Only recently he associated freely with them. But some Jews arrived who insisted that circumcision was required for believers in Christ, so Peter began avoiding the uncircumcised Gentiles. This marked a dangerous return to the law of Moses. Paul called Peter’s behavior “hypocrisy” (v. 13).

Because of Paul’s bold confrontation, the issue was resolved. Peter went on to serve God in the beautiful spirit of unity He intends for us.

No one needs to remain frozen in their worst moments. In God’s grace we can embrace each other, learn from each other, confront each other when it’s necessary, and grow together in His love.

Dedicated to Love

As a convert to Jesus Christ, Nabeel Qureshi has written books to help his readers understand the people in the religion he left. His tone is respectful, and Qureshi always displays a heart of love for his people.

Qureshi dedicated one of his books to his sister, who has not yet put her faith in Jesus. The dedication is brief, but powerful. “I am begging God for the day that we can worship him together,” he wrote.

We get a sense of that kind of love as we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief,” he said, “for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them” (Romans 9:2–3 nlt).

Paul loved the Jewish people so much that he would have chosen separation from God if only they would accept Christ. He understood that by rejecting Jesus, his people were rejecting the one true God. This motivated him to appeal to his readers to share the good news of Jesus with everyone (10:14–15).

Today, may we prayerfully dedicate ourselves to the love that aches for those close to us!

I Just Can’t Do It

“I just can’t do it!” lamented the dejected student. On the page he could see only small print, difficult ideas, and an unforgiving deadline. He needed the help of his teacher.

 We might experience similar despair when we read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Anger is as bad as murder (v. 22). Lust equals adultery (v. 28). And if we dare think we can live up to these standards, we bump into this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

“The Sermon on the Mount produces despair,” says Oswald Chambers. But he saw this as good, because at “the point of despair we are willing to come to [Jesus] as paupers to receive from Him.”

In the counter-intuitive way God so often works, those who know they can’t do it on their own are the ones who receive God’s grace. As the apostle Paul put it, “Not many of you were wise by human standards. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:26–27).

In God’s wisdom, the Teacher is also our Savior. When we come to Him in faith, through His Spirit we enjoy His “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30), and the grace and power to live for Him. That’s why He could say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

God of the Depths

“When you go to the deep sea, every time you take a sample, you'll find a new species,” says marine biologist Ward Appeltans. In one recent year, scientists identified 1,451 new types of undersea life. We simply don’t know the half of what’s down there.

In Job 38, God reviewed His creation for Job’s benefit. In three poetic chapters, God highlighted the wonders of weather, the vastness of the cosmos, and the variety of creatures in their habitats. These are things we can observe. Then God spoke of the mysterious Leviathan—for an entire chapter. Leviathan is a creature like no other, with harpoon-deflecting armor (Job 41:7, 13), graceful power (v. 12), and “fearsome teeth” (v. 14). “Flames stream from its mouth . . . smoke pours from its nostrils” (vv. 19–20). “Nothing on earth is its equal” (v. 33).

Okay, so God talks about a huge creature we haven’t seen. Is that the point of Job 41?

No! Job 41 broadens our understanding of God’s surprising character. The psalmist expanded on this when he wrote, “There is the sea, vast and spacious . . . . And Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there” (Psalm 104:25–26). After the terrifying description in Job, we learn that God created a playpen for this most fearsome of all creatures. Leviathan frolics.

We have the present to explore the ocean. We’ll have eternity to explore the wonders of our magnificent, mysterious, playful God.

Belonging

I’d been out late the night before, just as I was every Saturday night. Just twenty years old, I was running from God as fast as I could. But suddenly, strangely, I felt compelled to attend the church my dad pastored. I put on my faded jeans, well-worn T-shirt, and unlaced high-tops and drove across town.

I don’t recall the sermon Dad preached that day, but I can’t forget how delighted he was to see me. With his arm over my shoulder, he introduced me to everyone he saw. “This is my son!” he proudly declared. His joy became a picture of God’s love that has stuck with me all these decades.

The imagery of God as loving Father occurs throughout the Bible. In Isaiah 44, the prophet interrupts a series of warnings to proclaim God’s message of family love. “Dear Israel, my chosen one,” he said. “I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children” (vv. 2–3 nlt). Isaiah noted how the response of those descendants would demonstrate family pride. “Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord,’” he wrote. “Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands” (v. 5 nlt).

Wayward Israel belonged to God, just as I belonged to my adoptive father. Nothing I could do would ever make him lose his love for me. He gave me a glimpse of our heavenly Father’s love for us.

And in Truth

Years ago, I attended a wedding where two people from different countries got married. Such a blending of cultures can be beautiful, but this ceremony included Christian traditions mixed with rituals from a faith that worshiped many gods.

Zephaniah the prophet pointedly condemned the mixing of other religions with faith in the one true God (sometimes called syncretism). Judah had become a people who bowed in worship to the true God but who also relied on the god Molek (Zephaniah 1:5). Zephaniah described their adoption of pagan culture (v. 8) and warned that as a result God would drive the people of Judah from their homeland.

Yet God never stopped loving His people. His judgment was to show them their need to turn to Him. So Zephaniah encouraged Judah to “Seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). Then the Lord gave them tender words promising future restoration: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (3:20).

It’s easy to condemn examples of obvious syncretism like the wedding I attended. But in reality, all of us easily blend God’s truth with the assumptions of our culture. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to test our beliefs against the truth of God’s Word and then to stand for that truth confidently and lovingly. Our Father warmly embraces anyone who worships Him in both Spirit and truth (see John 4:23–24). 

The Last Call

After serving his country for two decades as a helicopter pilot, James returned home to serve his community as a teacher. But he missed helicopters, so he took a job flying medical evacuations for a local hospital. He flew until late in his life.

Now it was time to say goodbye to him. As friends, family, and uniformed co-workers stood vigil at the cemetery a colleague called in one last mission over the radio. Soon the distinctive sound of rotors beating the air could be heard. A helicopter circled over the memorial garden, hovered briefly to pay its respects, then headed back to the hospital. Not even the military personnel who were present could hold back the tears.

When King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle, David wrote an elegy for the ages called “the lament of the bow” (2 Samuel 1:17). “A gazelle lies slain on your heights,” he sang. “How the mighty have fallen!” (v. 19). Jonathan was David’s closest friend and brother-in-arms. And although David and Saul had been enemies, David honored them both. “Weep for Saul,” he wrote. “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother” (vv. 24, 26).

Even the best goodbyes are oh-so-difficult. But for those who trust in the Lord, the memory is much more sweet than bitter, for it is never forever. How good it is when we can honor those who have served others!

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, by continuing to use this site you agree to this. Find out more on how we use cookies and how to disable them.