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Revisiting C.S. Lewis' "The Weight of Glory"

posted Apr 2, 2018, 8:44 AM by Tim Isbell

After reading C.S. Lewis' “The Weight of Glory” essay several times, I decided to make my underlinings and annotations more accessible on a webpage. Midway through the writing process, I found myself scheduled for a challenging legal deposition in San Francisco where an attorney would spend an entire day cross-examining me. By the day before the deposition, my anxiety had reached its limit. So I decided to avoid the next morning's commute and drive to the city that night, check into a hotel, and hope for a good night's rest. Once there I needed something to settle my nerves, so I read through my draft, reflected on it for a few minutes, and then headed to bed. Surprisingly, I slept pretty well. The next morning, I repeated the process before walking across the street to the deposition. While driving back home that evening, I realized that at critical times throughout the day excepts from the draft came to mind. That experience, along with the prayers of my friend George and those of my wife Robin, resulted in a calmer me than I'd experienced for several days! Since then I've polished up this webpage in hopes my readers will find it helpful. To read it, just click on Weight of Glory - revisited.

Blessings, Tim

What about those who've never heard?

posted Mar 6, 2018, 7:44 PM by Tim Isbell

People ask, "What about those who've never heard of Jesus? It doesn't seem fair that God would send them to hell!" It's a good question that keeps many people from seriously considering Christian faith. A few weeks ago a church invited me to preach. The pastor there is a lectionary preacher and my Sunday fell on the first Sunday of Lent which includes the Noah story. Preachers take the Noah story in many directions and I organized my sermon around four questions. The third was, "Suppose you get to heaven. What are the chances you'll meet any of Noah's neighbors?" For more, check out Those Who Never Heard.

Tax tips for students (and ex students with loans)

posted Feb 15, 2018, 4:31 AM by Tim Isbell

I coach a few students and young adults in career planning, college decisions, and the financial dimensions that come along with their season of life. 
There are two federal tax breaks that help students with educational expenses. Neither of these breaks requires you to itemize deductions, so you can still file the short form. And they both survived the recent rewrite of the tax code, meaning they apply for the 2017 tax year and will also apply in 2018 and beyond. For more, check out Student Financing and Taxes.

God's characteristics - the short list

posted Feb 10, 2018, 5:05 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Feb 10, 2018, 5:07 PM ]

The Bible helps us understand God, and how to relate to him. But it’s a monumental task to distill the Bible’s 66 chapters into a concise list of God’s characteristics.

Fortunately, “systematic theologians” do the distilling for us. My go-to source for a list of God’s characteristics is Millard Erikson’s Christian Theology, which describes God’s characteristics in chapters 12 and 13 (37 pages). That’s still too complex for a quick reference, so I reduced Erickson’s two chapters to this single web page, which I use whenever I need to remember who God is.

Blessings, Tim

My 3 favorite Martin Luther King quotes

posted Jan 13, 2018, 9:01 AM by Tim Isbell

In honor of Martin Luther King Day (January 15), here are my three favorite MLK quotes. 1) "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." 2) "A genuine leader does not reflect consensus, he molds consensus." 3) "Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?" I've been curating a broad list of my favorite quotes for many years. To have a look just click on Quotes File.


How much time does it take a preacher to prepare?

posted Jan 3, 2018, 5:55 PM by Tim Isbell

I haven't posted any new resources in the Preaching section of my site in quite a while. Then, a few weeks ago a young intern/pastor asked me this question. After responding to her, I decided to turn it into a post. So, this post is for young preachers, and experienced preachers, and any parishioners curious about how much time goes into an original 30-minute sermon. It's a quick read. To read it, click on Preaching Prep Time.


Blessings,
Tim 

Gender Theology post available

posted Dec 27, 2017, 8:45 AM by Tim Isbell

The #MeToo movement got me thinking about gender theology and triggered me to develop this webpage. Writing it increased my understanding of the current culture in light of Christian faith, and now helps me better engage with the women and men in my life. It addresses gender theology from three biblical viewpoints: the Genesis story, Jesus in the gospels, and the early church as described in the Acts and epistles. Perhaps it will help you, too. You can find it at Gender Theology

- Blessings, Tim

What life looks like beyond Christian conversion

posted Nov 27, 2017, 6:43 PM by Tim Isbell

After conversion to Christian faith, nobody follows Jesus perfectly. In this life, the best we can expect is for our heart to beat increasingly like Jesus' heart: with a deep love for God and others. In the process, God marks us with many of Jesus’ characteristics. Beyond Conversion Marks offers my description of the marks. Please take a look. Blessings, Tim.

2017 Year-end Tax Planning

posted Nov 1, 2017, 11:13 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Dec 26, 2017, 5:10 PM ]

This November, far more than most years, is a smart time to start tax planning because Congress is working hard on a major change to the tax code. And it may become effective in 2018, which complicates tax planning for 2017. We have some information about what's in the tax package, but everything is subject to change before the end of the year. Even so, now is the time to start thinking about and preparing to respond. Substantial money is at stake for individual taxpayers. 


Here are six key elements that Congress has penciled into the current version:

  1. Tax rates will go down in 2018. 
  2. Tax bracket thresholds will change.
  3. The Standard Deduction will double. The combination of this and #2 will cause many people who now file the 1040 long form (the one where you can itemize deductions) to move to the 1040A or 1040EZ (the two short forms where you do not itemize deductions).
  4. State and local taxes will no longer be deductible on the federal tax forms.
  5. The maximum amounts that people can invest each year in tax-advantaged retirement accounts (401k, 403b, 457, etc.) will go down.
  6. Termination of the ministers housing allowance tax break. This change is not likely to remain in the law, but it's under consideration. While it may come at some point, it will be subject to legal challenges.
  7. Late add-on 12/26: The ACA (Affordable Care Act, also knows as Obamacare) is not revoked. The individual mandate also remains in effect in 2018 but will die in 2019. So if you don't have what the ACA considers adequate health care in 2018, you will get fined.

If the above items remain in the bill and the change is effective for 2018, here are some strategies to consider and discuss with a tax professional: 
  • Pull some generosity and charitable contributions from 2018 back into 2017. See also Tax-Smart Donations.
  • Pull some mortgage payments from 2018 back into 2017.
  • Pull property tax payments from 2018 back into 2017.
  • Pull estimated state and local income tax payments from 2018 back into 2017.
  • Pull payments of some 2018 college tuition bills back into 2017 to take advantage of the American opportunity tax credit (which is only available using the 1040 long form).
  • Defer whatever income you can from 2017 to 2018.
  • In 2017, maximize contributions to tax advantaged retirement programs. 
  • Retired ministers who now can withdraw 403b money tax-free for housing may have to pay tax at their income rate on these withdrawals. So if you are tapping your 403b a little each year and taking advantage of this tax break, you may want to take as much as possible in 2017.
  • Late add, 12/26: Sign up for adequate health care or you'll have to pay the penalty under the individual mandate for 2018.

Note: I am not a tax professional. I am posting this material as a way to encourage readers to think about these areas and talk with a tax professional. 

Tim Isbell

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Two Fresh Prayer Tips

posted Oct 14, 2017, 7:57 PM by Tim Isbell

I just added two tips to an existing web page. One helps in those times when we want to pray but our mind is stuck on something else. The other is a way to use a ready-made prayer, such as the Lord's prayer or one from our childhood, to link us with the past and future me's. Give them a try. If you're a pastor, use one for a Prayer-Time Teachable Moment before your pastoral prayer in the next worship service.


To check these out, click on Prayer Tips for All and jump down to items 1.5 and 1.6.


Blessings, 
Tim

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