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Is the Clinton Foundation a ripoff?

posted Aug 16, 2016, 9:46 AM by Tim Isbell

Last week I stumbled into a Facebook stream that I thought was posted by an acquaintance of mine. After posting a reply to somebody's comment, and getting deluged with readers' responses, I realized I had entered a Mike Huckabee post that shared this link from the Conservative Tribune: SHOCK: 96% Of Hillary’s Charitable Donations Went To 1 “Charity.”

Over the course of about three days, I wrote quite a bit into that thread, generally to the dismay of many of the other participants. But this gave me an excuse to take a look at the Clintons' charitable contributions.

After finishing my interactions with the Huckabee post, I decided to pull together my posted comments and, with only light editing, post them on this webpage: Clinton foundations - ripoff or legit? If you want to do a little research on this topic, just click on the link. You'll find my perspective and several related factual links.

Churches & Politics

posted Aug 11, 2016, 9:12 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Aug 12, 2016, 8:53 AM ]

It's an election season and churches often participate in one way or another in the election process. Some church participation can jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status. The IRS has a handy guide to help churches understand what they can, and cannot do, regarding political activities. It's the first two sections of Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (IRS publication 1828). As you might guess from the title, it is a large PDF (35 pages) mostly dealing with financial nuts and bolts. But the first two sections (just 7 pages) deal with the intersection of churches and political activity. Just thought you might like to have a look!

My personal perspective on the intersection of Christian faith and politics is wrapped up in my understanding of citizenship. As I see it, we Christians are invited to live primarily as citizens of God's Kingdom while residing at postal addresses squarely in the kingdoms of this world. To get this across, I often talk about living in as citizens of an Alternate Kingdom. This Alternate life does not mean that we need to be a-political. It means that God expects us to work for the good of our neighbors and country to the extent that our understanding of Christian faith allows - all the while remembering that our primary citizenship is elsewhere. For more on this, check out Alternate Life.


Why I don't buy actively managed investments.

posted Aug 10, 2016, 6:47 AM by Tim Isbell

I ran across this chart in a recent Quartz article. It shows the enormous price an investor pays if they miss just a few days in a 20-year span! I cannot predict which days will be this pivotal. Neither can a professional. So I don't use active managers, nor many actively managed funds. Instead, I use mostly index mutual funds. This is called evidence-based, asset allocation investing. For more on this see Asset Allocation Basics.

By the way, the Quartz article is The Case for ETFs in 3 Charts. The chart in this post is the third chart in the article. If you read the full article, note that the second chart may be misleading. While an ETF has lower costs than a "traditional mutual fund," a fairer comparison is an ETF with an index mutual fund where the difference should be much smaller - if any.

A Primer for people new to American politics

posted Jul 12, 2016, 2:57 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Aug 1, 2016, 4:46 PM ]

I trade many texts with an Asian-American friend regarding investment strategies and Christian spiritual formation. When texting about the impact of the United Kingdom's Brexit vote on investing, my friend asked several questions about U.S. politics and the upcoming election. He wanted to understand the landscape of American politics so he could factor it into his investment decisions. 

In the process of helping this and another international friend get up to speed in American politics, I realized that many new people are registering to vote in the November elections. Some of these are internationals who are now citizens; others are responding to the campaigns of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. And some long-time voters may just want a refresher. If this is you, then I hope you will take a look at Political Primer 2016.

How to bless others

posted Jun 28, 2016, 9:23 PM by Tim Isbell

Recently, a soon-to-be new mother asked Robin and me to join in a time of blessing and offering of advice to her husband, the soon-to-be new father. 

I remembered, many years ago, teaching this skill using principles from The Blessing, a book by Gary Smalley and John Trent. The book, a little dusty, still sits on my shelves, and I also found my old teaching notes. Together these informed my contribution to the occasion, attended by a circle of friends. It was a blessed time, indeed.

Afterward, I decided to post Smalley and Trent's five elements of blessing others. To learn more about blessing people, click on Blessing Others.

Are you a stock or a bond?

posted May 8, 2016, 8:52 AM by Tim Isbell

Our financial capital is the total of our saved assets, beyond the value of the home where we intend to reside in retirement.

Human capital is the present value of all future earnings. It is our health, knowledge, skills and motivation. Anything we do to increase our ability to earn higher future income is an investment in human capital. It's at its peak around age 25 and mostly gone by age 65. 

At best, we have about 40 years to convert enough human capital into financial capital to last the rest of our lives.

For how this impacts your asset allocation strategy, click on Human v Financial Capital.

The Invitation

posted Apr 27, 2016, 9:44 AM by Tim Isbell

A few weeks ago I visited Ohio on family business and attended a Sunday worship. I quickly realized that Heather Kimura's message would head toward an invitation to follow Jesus. So I took notes, and am glad I did! 

A few weeks later, I decided to polish up the notes, add some personal content, and publish these in the Christian Teachings section of my site.

Maybe you're a follower of Jesus and, like me, always looking for another fresh way of packaging an invitation to follow Jesus. Or maybe God has already prepared you to receive his invite. Either way, I hope you'll check out The Invitation.



Try "Pondering Prayer"

posted Mar 29, 2016, 8:49 AM by Tim Isbell

I meet individually with a few men who are working their way through Timothy Keller's book: Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy of God

Recently, two of us met for morning coffee at Panera Bread and talked about Keller's advice for meditative, or pondering, prayer. Keller unpacked a meditation framework from Martin Luther, which was intriguing enough that we decided to give it a try.

Later that morning I was preparing for a troublesome meeting on my agenda for two days later. I anticipated a "train wreck," and saw no way to stop it. In the process, I expected more criticism than I deserved and the perceived unfairness of that bothered me - too much. So I searched for an avoidance strategy but fell short.

As the day progressed, I experienced an unexpected intersection of pondering prayer and the troublesome meeting. By the end of the week, I had experienced the value of pondering prayer and decided to add it to my website. For the rest of the story and an explanation of the four parts of Luther's meditation framework, click on Pondering Prayer.  



"Why Mission?", a new book by Dean Flemming

posted Feb 20, 2016, 8:04 AM by Tim Isbell

Dr. Dean Flemming is a long-term friend, professor, and author. I serve as one of his editor/reviewers, so he recently sent me a complimentary copy of his new book. Re-reading it in finished form was so insightful that I'm sending gift copies to nine friends. So if you don't find a copy in your mailbox next week, I hope you'll order a copy from Amazon and start reading!

Dean wrote Why Mission? for followers of Jesus. It provides solid biblical and theological perspective for Christian living in secular western cultures. This book describes how followers of Jesus fit into the broad mission of God, the "misseo dei." He does this through the lenses of Matthew, Luke (his gospel and the Acts), John (his gospel and the Revelation), Saint Paul (Philippians), and Peter (1 Peter).

I particularly found that his chapters on Philippians, 1 Peter, and the Revelation offer valuable perspectives on my context in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm sure Dean picked these two epistles because they speak profoundly to places where the culture views Christians with skepticism. This includes North America, where people increasingly see Christians, along with other religions, as part of the world's problem rather than carriers of its solution. Beyond the epistles, Dean's treatment of Revelation provides perspective and guidance on living a life of true worship of God, while the dominant culture busily worships an array of other gods.

Here are three excerpts to give you a flavor of the book:

From Dean's chapter on Philippians: Paul reminds the church that, although they conduct their public, common life - their citizenship - in a setting where Caesar seems to hold all the cards, they must do so according to a higher loyalty and a different lifestyle... they must visibly live out the values of the kingdom of Christ, not the empire of Caesar.

From his chapter on 1 Peter: Christian holiness is not a retreat from the world into a safe house of individual spirituality. Nor is it a crusade against the world, treating it as a foe to be defeated. Instead, Peter envisions a church that is radically different, yet fully engaged, for the sake of others.

From his chapter on the Revelation: The chief problem facing the churches to which John writes is not systematic persecution from Rome... For most of these churches, it was the temptation to accommodate to the dominant Roman ideology and culture.

The witness of God's people in Revelation is intertwined with worship. Worship is not only a liturgical practice. It is also a political act. Worshipers declare allegiances. Throughout Revelation, worship of the one true God in heaven is set over against the worship of the beast on earth, embodied for John's audience in the imperial cult.

Why Mission? (Reframing New Testament Theology) is available on Amazon.

Other books by Dr. Dean Flemming:

  • Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Mission
  • Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling
  • Philippians: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition
For more from other authors, check out my Reading Suggestions 


Tim Isbell

Two Keys to a lasting Relationship

posted Jan 28, 2016, 9:16 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jan 28, 2016, 9:19 AM ]

It's been a long time since I added a new resource to my Advice for Couples web page, but I added one today. It came from a young woman who I counseled, along with her husband, before their marriage 11 years ago. The article offers fantastic advice on how to make a relationship last year-after-year. It's a must-read if you're early in a relationship, then reread when the bumps come along, and eventually to pass along to your kids and grandkids. Here's the article: Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down to Two Basic Traits (An Atlantic article, published in BusinessInsider).

For more relationship resources, check out Advice for Couples. Or, if you're a pastor or professional who counsels people before marriage, click on Resources for Premarriage Counseling


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