December 12, 2017

Newsletter


Give Us a Piece of Your Mind: Visit THRED
THRED is the place to go for conversations taking place among people who differ in perspective but who share an interest in learning more about others and the world we live in. THRED engages its audience in a manner that takes advantage of online communication. Here you'll find a spirited give-and-take about world religions, views on God, life after death, the dynamics of family, relationships, the Person and work of Jesus, beliefs in the 21st century, and much more.

The unique community of THRED offers an open and engaging place for people to talk about the things they care about. Users will find that while THRED offers a Christian perspective, it's open to all kinds of ways of looking at things. In fact, it welcomes diversity of viewpoint and a healthy, bi-lateral exchange of perspectives and ideas.

THRED's initial point of contact is its Facebook page, which you can access by clicking here. This is where you will find an open invitation to jump into the discussion and tell us what you're thinking.

At the THRED website, there are articles dealing with relationships, community, society, God, Christianity, and other contemporary interests. These can be accessed by clicking here.

Let us know what you're thinking. Visit us at THRED today.

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Extra Helpings for Christmas: New Courses from LHM Learn
As you contemplate what to do with your Christmas break this year, why not ramp up your learning quotient? You can do this with three fresh additions to LHM Learn: the rapidly expanding menu of courses being offered by Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Just in time for the holidays is a Christian Foundations course, Watch.Read.Reflect: The Reformation. Also on deck are two Spiritual Reflections courses: Sharing the Good News and Love Came Down, a short course tailored to our 2017 Advent devotions of the same name.

First, in Watch.Read.Reflect: The Reformation, Martin Luther's teaching that all believers are called to read, understand, and share the Word of God with the world will be explored. The reformer's conviction of the need for believers to be informed in God's Word and earnest in sharing His Good News points to Luther's passion for understanding the faith and being vocal in its proclamation.

Second, in Sharing the Good News, there are five focused meditations that offer insights and food for thought on how we can gain a hearing for the Gospel. Naturally, when we consider what God has done in our lives, we want to share this with others. After all, it's news that's simply too good to keep to ourselves. Users will read accounts of people sharing their witness and how lives are impacted by the Gospel.

Third, Love Came Down is a course drawn from LHM's 2017 Advent devotions. Taking select devotions, this brief course considers the marvel of the Christmas narrative: the down-to-earth story of God coming to us in the form of a man, with the singular mission of redeeming lost and rebellious sinners through the innocent life of His only Son.

To register (it's FREE!) and take advantage of these excellent faith-building courses, click here and make your selections.

Take some time this Christmas season to enrich your faith life! Courses from LHM Learn are convenient (you can start and stop them, returning later to where you left off), and they're full of practical information you can use on a daily basis.

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LHM's Holiday Video Specials: Shades of Christmastime Past
Lutheran Hour Ministries has produced a number of Christmas-related specials over the years, and many are available for stocking your home library. These video gems are great for kids (and grownups too) and add a bit of warm nostalgia to the holidays. Don't be surprised if you find a local TV station or cable outlet airing one or more of these longtime favorites, too. The classics never go out of season.

The following is a sample of what LHM has to offer through Vision Video. You can check out its selection by clicking here and entering the title in the search box at the top of the home page.

Little Shepherd (25 minutes) follows Joel and his family, and his pet lamb, Bramble, as they venture into new territory. Fearing the dangers of wolves and other things that haunt the night, Joel embarks on the journey of becoming a shepherd. Afraid and anxious, he is about to discover he needn't face these dangers alone, as he learns through an unexpected surprise that God will be there through every fear.

Red Boots for Christmas (28 minutes) tells the story of Hans the shoemaker who is hard at work in a small town in Germany, secluded from the holiday festivities around him. Hans, having never learned the true meaning of Christmas, mocks the townspeople's joyful preparations. Visited by an angel who promises a gift, Hans crafts a gift to give the returning messenger: the finest red boots ever made. In the end, Hans embraces the wonder and spirit of Christmas, as he receives what God has to offer.

The next three programs are featured on a single three-video DVD: Three Christmas Classics.

Christmas Is (22 minutes) is an animated classic about Benji, a disappointed lad who must once again play the second shepherd in the annual school play. His disenchantment turns to joy when a daydream transports him and his lovable pooch, Waldo, back to the very first Christmas. There the second shepherd shares the angels' glorious message that Jesus is born in Bethlehem!

The City That Forgot About Christmas (22 minutes) is a story about a woodcarver who lived in a village that had forgotten about Christmas, that is, until he taught the children of the town about the birth of Jesus. On hearing that good news the village, uncaring and unaware of what God had done at Christmas, was filled with the joy of Christ. This animated favorite features the voices of Sebastian Cabot, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Louis Nye.

The Stableboy's Christmas (27 minutes) is an award-winning drama, telling the story of 10-year-old Tammy as she travels back in time to the first Christmas in Bethlehem. There she sees a stableboy and his act of unselfish love when he gives the Christ Child his pet lamb. Considering his sacrificial gift, she comes to realize how sharing presents with others is a way of sharing God's love at Christmas.

Christmas holiday specials from LHM ... grab a cup of wassail, crack open a chestnut, and let the good times roll!

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Those Left Behind: Suicide's Survivors
While the holidays can help us forget our worries for a little while, for those facing the loss of a family member or friend to suicide the pain this time of year can be more acute than ever.

In this new Project Connect booklet, A Grief Like No Other: When Suicide Takes Someone You Love, helpful counsel and words of wisdom are offered to survivors. Author Dr. Kari Vo begins this way: "We hope to dispel some myths about suicide and explain some truths. We hope to offer some ideas and insights that may comfort you, or give you help in caring for someone else who has lost a loved one to suicide. And above all, we hope to assure you that God's love is with you even now, in this deepest pit of sorrow -- and that you can trust your loved one into His hands."

Surviving the suicide of one close to you is a traumatic experience. Swirling around the event are all kinds of questions concerning motivation, state of mind, what could have been done differently, and what does eternity hold for the person now gone. In this booklet, care is given to offer perspective on thorny queries like these and give readers an assurance that in suicide -- though the loss be great and the grief ongoing -- we have a loving and merciful God who understands the pain we're experiencing.

To order copies or to download a FREE PDF, click here.

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Holiday Reflections to Make a Bright Season Brighter
The next time you read this newsletter, Christmas Day will be over. While you may still be in the afterglow of a fantastic Christmas dinner complete with all the trimmings, the next event will be the coming New Year. But before then, to keep your mind focused on the things that matter most, take some time over the next few weeks to explore Love Came Down, LHM's Advent devotions for 2017.

Author Dr. Kari Vo writes, "I suspect you, like so many people, can think of a time when you felt you had almost nothing. It might have been after a job loss, foreclosure, or divorce -- a time when you lost so many of the physical things you depend on. Or it might have been more of an emotional or social situation, where you had what you needed physically, but you lost friends, family, love, reputation, or peace.

"Times like these force us to our knees, force us to call out to the Lord, saying, 'Lord, save us!' We know we cannot help ourselves. But He can help us, and He will. The God who laid aside glory, honor, and power to become a helpless human baby for our sakes -- He will help us quickly. We are never out of His heart and mind."

Lutheran Hour Ministries' 2017 Advent devotions, Love Came Down, is available for download and printing (large-font text, bulletin inserts, bulletin shells, and PowerPoint slides) in English. Our Spanish-language version, Llegó el Amor, is available to print as well.

You can find the English Advent devotions by clicking here. For the Spanish devotions, click here.

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A Place for Jesus
This year's Advent devotions once again tell of the timeless story when God came to us, came down to us, fully, in human form, and joined us in this world of pain and sorrow. His birth was magnificent in its simplicity and, in keeping with Christ's humble status, was not the stuff of fanfare or spectacle. Still, His arrival has universal application and for us ~ it changes everything. Here, if you don't already receive them as a daily email or read them online, is this year's Advent devotion for Christmas Day.

TEXT: "And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).

New parents spend pretty much every waking moment thinking about the place where the baby is. Is he safe? Who's holding him right now? Could he roll off that bed if I look away for a moment? Is the temperature too hot in this room? And who hasn't had the nightmare about accidentally leaving a baby at the grocery store!

We want babies to be in a safe place-all babies, our own or someone else's. But Jesus had none of that. He didn't even have a room in the inn with the other travelers (who no doubt would have been disturbed by His wails).

What He did have was an attentive mother who loved Him. She put Him in the manger to sleep-safely off the ground where He might take a chill or an animal might step on Him. No doubt she and Joseph spent the night as close as possible to that manger, guarding it with their bodies. That was Jesus' safe place.

When Jesus grew to manhood, He returned the favor-not just for Mary and Joseph, but for the entire human race. The night before His death, Jesus said to those who followed Him, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:1-3).

Jesus is our safe place. He is the One who laid down His life for us and took it up again, that He might be our Savior and our Refuge forever. He will never let go of us or forsake us, and He promises that everyone who believes in Him will be with Him forever.

That being the case, isn't this a great time to make room for Jesus in your own heart?

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, stay with me and never leave me. Keep me always with You, now and in eternity. Amen.

Do you have any special holiday traditions you do with family or friends that are centered on the Christmas story?

If so, please send them our way by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Merry Christmas!

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Upcoming Events:
  • OH, Wooster: North Street Mission
    May 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017
    Host Church: Trinity United Church of Christ
  • TX, Pearland: Men's Bible Breakfast
    August 12, 2017 - March 19, 2018
    Host Church: Epiphany Lutheran Church
  • AZ, Peoria: Grand Canyon District Rally Day
    February 10, 2018 - February 10, 2018
    Host Church: Life in Christ Lutheran Church

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Newest Men's NetWork Groups:
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    Pekin, IL
  • Wednesday Morning Prayer Breakfast
    Alamo, TX
  • Immanuel Men's Growth Group
    DesPlaines, IL
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