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Immigrants & Refugees - the Christian Perspective

posted Nov 17, 2015, 3:26 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 6:54 AM ]

In the ramp-up to the 2016 presidential election, immigration policy enlivens candidate debates, threads through political news stories, and even animates some of our interpersonal discussions. Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks in Paris elevate the rhetoric several more notches. Western governments understandably scramble to protect their people. Politicians move aggressively to block the path of refugees and other immigrants. It's natural and expected. 

But what is the Christian perspective? For some perspective, please check out this link on Immigrants & Refugees.


Advent Readings

posted Nov 5, 2015, 9:03 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Nov 8, 2015, 8:36 AM ]

For months, I saved a Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote for this post on Advent. It's from one of his letters, written during World War II, from his German prison cell to a special woman in his life: "A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various non-essential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent."

The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas and culminates on Christmas Day. This year these four Sundays are November 28, December 5, 12, 19.

Even if you or your church is not liturgical, Advent is the one season of the year worth adding a little liturgy because it helps make Christmas distinct from the rest of the year. Especially if you are a worship leader or pastor, and also if you are a parishioner wanting to build Advent into your family's Christmas, you can find some original readings for this season by clicking on Advent Readings.

Why Not Pray Your Commute?

posted Oct 19, 2015, 2:17 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Oct 19, 2015, 10:52 PM ]

My mid-career years in the electronics industry were pretty focused on getting projects done. Coworkers knew I was a Christian, but faith was not deeply integrated into my career. Eventually, I realized that when my industrial career ended it would matter more how I had represented Jesus at work than whether I succeeded in projects. So, I decided to trust Jesus with the business outcomes and turn my focus to people.

My starting point was to use my commute to "pray scriptures" for the projects and coworkers. For the list and more information, click on Pray Your Commute.



Halloween Quote

posted Oct 13, 2015, 3:08 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Oct 14, 2015, 8:56 AM ]

It's October again, the month some Christians get theologically concerned about Halloween. I'm not one of them, but I do find some of the ways our culture celebrates this day a bit uncomfortable. So I decided to post this:

A woman asked her coworker, "What is it like to be a Christian? "The coworker replied, "It is like being a pumpkin. God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Then he cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed, and then he carves you a new smiling face and puts his light inside of you to shine for all the world to see." [source unknown]

I figure if the world around me is going to promote October 31 I might as well take it as an opportunity to put an encouraging spin on it.



How to resolve an offense like an adult

posted Aug 13, 2015, 6:24 AM by Tim Isbell

The Bible prescribes a particular process for when someone hurts you. With minor modifications, it also works in secular environments. The three steps come from Matthew 18.15-17:
  1. Go to the offender personally.
  2. Take someone with you.
  3. Take the issue to the church.
Too often, when someone offends us, our first move is to gossip with peers or to elevate the offence to someone in charge. But there is a better way.

This post first provides advice for each step in the Christian context, such as within a church. Then it explains how to modify the process to work in secular settings, including school and the workplace. Even if your primary application is in a secular context, please read the first part because it greatly informs the second part. To learn more, check out Resolving an Offense.



Want to write better?

posted Jul 10, 2015, 6:45 AM by Tim Isbell

Many of us are moderately serious writers. Sometimes it's an important email to one very important recipient. Other times we write material to distribute to a group or organization. Occasionally we publish on a website or in a book for the public to read. Naturally, we want our writing quality to increase with the importance of the content and the number of potential readers. But writing high-quality material is challenging.

If you're ready to immediately improve the quality of your written work, and simultaneously learn to write better, click on Writing Improvement Now.

All the best,


Prayer Tips

posted Jun 26, 2015, 8:46 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jun 27, 2015, 7:01 AM ]

Pastors continually look for fresh material for that teachable moment just before the weekly worship prayer time. And parishioners welcome new resources that help them move beyond sending lists of needs to God.

I recently read the wonderful book Prayer, by Timothy Keller, and decided to add what I learned to the prayer resources on my website. This provided an opportunity to add several additional prayer resources, as well as to refresh the things already there.

So whether you are a parishioner or a pastor, here's some fresh material on prayer:

Prayer-time Teachable Moment - the first part provides tips for both parishioners and pastors. The second part adds suggestions particularly for pastors on ways to use that weekly prayer-time teachable moment. 

So whether you're a pastor or a parishioner, this web page is for you.



Personal Financial Literacy

posted Jun 18, 2015, 4:46 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jun 18, 2015, 4:49 PM ]

If you are just starting in personal finance and a bit overwhelmed about all the "moving parts", take a look at 
Financial Literacy. It's also a great review for more experienced people. Even if you don't need it, your kids and grandkids do. The URL offers an easy-to-read top-level guide covering all the critical moving parts, including things like setting a budget, using credit responsibly, planning for retirement and much more. (Just gave this link a permanent home on my site at Resources/Links)

All the best,

Funeral Material

posted Jun 9, 2015, 10:56 PM by Tim Isbell

I still remember the anxiety I felt in 1993 when a parishioner died and I needed to lead my first funeral. There were only 3-4 days to prepare. And I had limited experience even attending funerals, and absolutely no idea how to officiate one. So I asked an experienced pastor for a crash course on funeral and graveside services. Thanks to him, I survived... and so did the deceased's wife. Since then I've done several.

It's now 23 years later and I've done several funerals, memorial services, and gravesides. Earlier this year (2015) I did 3 funerals in 3 months, causing me to dust off my funeral and memorial service resources to get them into a shape that I can offer to you. They include an invaluable (to me, anyway) worksheet that frames the pastoral and planning meeting that I have with the family, usually 2-3 days before the service. The resources also include preaching notes for several homilies (short 10-minute Christian messages) suitable for a wide range of situations. To access all of these, just click on Funeral Resources.


Minister's Housing Taxation

posted May 25, 2015, 7:42 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated May 26, 2015, 1:32 PM ]

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service provides generous treatment of ministers' housing expenses. Essentially, ministers can exclude money from taxation so long as it is spent on housing (but this money is included as income for Social Security tax computation). The exclusion even applies during retirement for money coming from pre-retirement ministry employment (such as money from a defined-benefit program or a 403B plan). Most, maybe all, states offer the same exclusion. This is a very, very generous deal.

For more check out Minister's Housing Taxation.


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