Topinabee Community Church is in the midst of change and renewal!  We have remodeled our Education and Nursery rooms as we move forward raising our young ones in the faith.  We are reaching out to the un-churched with advertising and direct mail.  We are getting ready to re-launch our Summer Services - an alternative time to Worship in the Faith.

In the midst of change, we can be tempted to let little things and non-essential issues grow out of proportion and steal our joy.  Let us never take our eyes off of why God placed our church here:
-to deepen our personal relationship with God       through Christ
       -to help others discover forgiveness and joy in Christ
       -to help others in need

Topinabee Community Church is an interdenominational church. We are dedicated to living and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Have faith. It all comes right. Pastor Mike

Sunday November 29


"The Notables"-an area music group will perform at the Topinabee Church on Sunday Evening Dec. 6 at 5:30.  This Christmas music special will include a dinner.  Profits from the program will go to "eat for heat".  
Tickets are $25 and are available from Kathy Sanders, Lynn Balazovic or Nancy Love.


Bible readings for Nov. 16-20 can be found under the Bible Readings tab on this site.


A large contingent of members enjoyed a hot dog roast with lots of additional great food at the Chapotons.(more photos in the gallery section)

A church group got together to visit a local cranberry bog.  The trip was very informative and everyone had a chance to load up on fresh picked cranberries.




A New Thankfulness

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NRSV

November 23, 2015

         There is much about Thanksgiving I’ve always enjoyed and plan to do so again. The feasting and the gathering of family are things I’ve been blest with all of my life. But over time, I’ve learned to be thankful for more than that and, indeed, to be thankful for things I once considered a burden.

I grumbled about working a job that I did not love or that did not live up to my expectations. That is until I could not work at all because of a serious injury. Now I’m simply thankful I can work. Yes, I grumble occasionally and then I remember and rejoice.

          In the past, I longed for the freedom to go where I could, when I could. I sought a freedom from responsibility. Now I rejoice that I am needed at home and at work. It helps create within me the soul and mind of the man I always wanted to be.

         May your Thanksgiving Day be a day of gratitude crowded with friends and family and food!

Prayer: Lord, thanks!

Late Start, Strong Finish
 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9.11 MPV
November 16th, 2015

         Anna took up painting when she was already eighty years old. We know her best as Grandma Moses. Eventually many of the best galleries in New York City exhibited her work and some of her paintings were reproduced on millions of Christmas cards.
         At this apex of her painting career, she was interviewed and was asked how it felt to be so famous.
         “Oh, I don’t think about fame much. I keep my mind on what I’m going to do next. I have a lot of catching up to do!”
         What a great attitude. Not the excuse we often use, saying too many years have come and gone for us to change our ways or start that career we always wanted. And certainly not that infamous phrase, “I'm too busy for that.” No. She looked forward to the challenge.
         If we want to do well, it’s best to keep our eyes on the joy of what comes next, whether in work or life. I’ve discovered that if I do so, the rest takes care of itself.
 Prayer: Lord, let my passion be for doing the best I can, not merely for the recognition that may come.

Does Jesus Save?
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  Act 4.12 NRSV
November 17, 2015
“Jesus Saves!” cried the street corner preacher I passed by as a college student.  I saw the contempt on a passersby’s face who clearly thought we had grown past such thinking.
“Jesus Saves!”  I read that on the bumper of the car in front of me at a light in Ann Arbor one day. The driver had cut in front of me and was leaning on her horn in a vain effort to get traffic to move.
“Jesus Saves!” Perhaps, upon hearing that from a pulpit, we have considered moving to a more open-minded church down the road?
“Jesus Saves!” The ultimate expression of God’s love for a hurting, hopeless and dying world. Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth and life itself. 
Prayer: Lord, our failures, both hidden and open, convince us that we are a people still in need of a Savior.

Ghosts that Haunt Us

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Psalm 51.3 NRSV   
November 18, 2015
The Crash Test Dummies (the rock group, not the dummies in cars) have an album entitled, “The Ghosts That Haunt Me.” The lyrics tell of past deeds that still haunt the singer. We can resonate with that. For some of us, our past mistakes, failures and sins are the ghosts that haunt us. Sometimes the memory of them slips into our consciences and we shudder and wonder how we could have done or said those things.
What are we to do with these ghosts now that Halloween is over?
  First, we acknowledge them, for they are real. It is useless and counter-productive to pretend they never happened.
Second, let them inform us and teach us, for perhaps the greatest waste of time and energy is to repeat the same mistake over and over.
Third and finally, we must never let them paralyze us from doing what is right today.
  Remind the magicians peering through their crystal balls into our past that the past is over. Now is the time to live and do it right. Let us always move forward, tipping our hats to the past as we leave it in our dust.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the lessons I’ve learned and survived. Show me how to pass the lessons along.

How To Know God Better
“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me… and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” John 14.21 NRSV

 November 19, 2015

 “If God would just show Himself, how easily I could follow,” she said. Her logic sounded good. If, through a miracle or a sign, God would “show” Himself, how much more easily could we follow Him? I’ve heard that many times, sometimes through my own voice.

         But God did show Himself. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and still people turned away and did not follow.

God has chosen a different way for us. The Word tells us that to know God better, we first obey God’s clear directives. That may sound backwards, but that is our human reasoning, not God’s. Besides, humanity has already proven that we don’t follow even when we see, hear and touch.

This week we will encounter a moment. In that moment there will be the opportunity to react and follow the clear teaching of God or we will choose to disobey and live a lesser way. It is when we obey that we gain an intimate knowledge of God. The Word says, “To those who hear my commandments and keep them, to those I will reveal myself to them.”

 Prayer: Lord, I guess it may be true that believe is to finally see.

Where Did It Take Me?
“You must (be)...slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” James 1.19, 20 NRSV
November 10, 2015
Only rarely does my anger give a good account of itself. There is a righteous anger that most of us have experienced. But probably not as many times as we would like to think.
Seven or eight years ago, a couple of friends of mine discovered some dogs being terribly mistreated. Being dog lovers, as well as normally sensitive people, it angered them. Their anger and concern propelled them through an investigation of those responsible and the court system, working to see that those responsible could not commit this offense again.
That was commendable, but they let this momentum take them to the next level. They organized and built a system of resources that still today helps animals to be treated better and to find good homes.
That is a model of where our anger should take us. First to righting a wrong, then working to prevent such a wrong from happening again. And then ultimately, to make genuine improvements to our community and society.
So the question the Biblical writer of James is asking us is simple: What are the fruits of our anger? 

Prayer: Lord, never let me see a wrong without trying to help.
Between the Devil and the Mafia
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6.13 NRSV
November 9, 2015        
From time to time, some folks have decided I wasn’t the right pastor for the church I was serving. But when I didn’t leave and they got zero support from the congregation, I sometimes saw a strange transformation.  Some determined that not only was I a bad fit for the church, I was much worse. They considered me to be somewhere between the devil and the mafia.
The attacks became personal and ugly. Even though these folks never once got what they wanted, they were grim times. Over the years, I learned this had happened to almost every pastor I met. Yes, that knowledge helped some, usually after the worst of it.
At the moment of attack, I was so wounded that I sometimes seriously thought, “Forget it. I’m out of here.” But I never left on that note. Finally, I learned to simply stand firm.  Stand firm in my convictions about the faith and about where God wanted me to lead the church.
If we are trying to do anything worthwhile in our church, school, on the job or in our community, we will face opposition and it can get personal. That doesn’t mean that we are wrong. It means that some people are so broken or myopic that they see only their versions of reality.
Pray, seek wise council and then having done everything, stand firm. 
Prayer: Lord, give me firm ground on which to make my stand.

Often Forgetful, But Never Forgotten

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Mt 6.9 NRSV

November 5, 2015
Going through my journal, I came across an incident from about ten years ago. While visiting a church on vacation, the pastor discovered that I was a minister. So, five minutes into the service, he asked me to come up and lead the Lord’s Prayer. I had a small moment of panic.

You see, sometimes in a service, my mind will move forward to what is next and what is needed from me. One Sunday, my mind wandered too far ahead and I realized I had just skipped a line during the prayer, so I stopped. And so did the congregation. We looked at each other, laughed and started over.
Since that time, I had been careful to keep a copy of the prayer with me on which I cold focus. Since I was visiting, I didn’t bring a copy with me nor was it in that church's bulletin.  As I was about to pray, the absurdity of my concern hit me. This wasn’t about my concentration or me; it was a prayer to the God of the Universe.

“Our Father,” I began. The congregation and the good pastor to my right began to pray with me. Their voices were strong and confident. I felt the power of the words coupled with the congregation’s convictions and the ancient rhythms of the prayer carried us all through to the end. Amen. 

Prayer: Lord, when we get over ourselves, a lot of things come much more easily.
Not As Bad As Some
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2.11 NRSV
November 4, 2015
“Ah, Officer, give me a break,” the driver said as the officer kept writing. “I was only doing fifteen miles-an-hour over the limit! Lots of people drive faster than me.” The officer handed the driver the ticket and went back to her car unmoved by the rationalization.
If you’re like me, you often find other folks' failures far more egregious than your own.  I have perfectly sound reasons whereas others, I’m sure, are on much less solid footing.  OK, you and I know I’m wrong about that.
Jesus tells of a Pharisee listing all the terrible things he didn’t do that others did. Then he reminded God that he wasn’t as bad “as this tax collector” who was standing nearby.
The tax collector, not even aware of his fellow “penitent,” just asks God to forgive his sins. And it was the tax collector who left forgiven.
God calls all of us to repent of our own sins and to leave everyone else’s sin for Him to sort out. 
Prayer: Lord, I have more than enough to handle just taking care of myself today so I will leave everyone else to Your discretion.
When Forming a Committee 
“Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed." Proverbs 15.22 NRSV

November 3, 2015
Recently I read an article with the provocative title, “What to ruin a good idea? Form a committee.”
We can resonate with that. Early in my ministry, I was given a letter opener that read, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.”
Over time, I’ve discovered the flaw in this thinking. Yes, it is often true that committees have the courage of the most timid member and the vision of the one who is the most shortsighted. This just means we put together the wrong committees.
The problem with committees isn’t the process of talking an idea out or examining the pros and cons. The challenge lies with whom we put on the committee. I have a few guidelines I try to follow:
Never put people on a committee to quiet their complaining. It won’t work.
 Never put people on a committee just because they volunteer for the position. Ask why they want to be on the committee.
Never put pessimists on the committee. Their vision will tend to lack faith.
Never put people on a committee when you know they oppose the direction you are leading your church, your company or your organization. And why would you?      
Prayer: Lord, let us seek the wise counsel of others, but stay faithful to our visions.

A lesson from a Golf Ball
 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” Proverbs 3.5 NRSV

November 2, 2015
         Over the years, golf balls have been fashioned in many ways. The most recent incarnation came with the manufacturing process's ability to create an almost perfect sphere with a totally smooth skin.  The thought was that if the skin was smooth, it would generate less friction and therefore travel further. Logical.
         But over time, golfers began to notice that the more roughed up the golf ball became, the straighter and farther it went. Soon, golf balls were manufactured with the dimples we know today.
         Do you think that’s why God allows rough patches in our lives? To teach us how to go straighter and farther? Sounds right to me.
Prayer: Lord, the working of Your hands is often hidden from me, but I’ve learned to trust what You are doing even when I don’t like it.

Self-Pity Limitations #2
“Woe is me!” Micah 7.1a NRSV

October 29, 2015
         Three and a half years ago, I wrote a devotion outlining proposed limits on our self-pity. Here are my new suggestions: 
Statute of Limitations on not being appreciated at our job: One week or two days and half a gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. That is unless we complain loudly or on social media. Then we get only three days and probably a pink slip. 
Statute of Limitations complaining about people at work not lifting their fair share of the load: Two days only and not at work. Grousing is permitted but not during dinner with the family.
Statute of Limitations on being misunderstood: One hour, less with Chunky Monkey and then join the club. We have no dues, a secret handshake, tee shirts and coupons for more Chunky Monkey. 

Prayer: Lord, I think I will save my complaints for another time.

Pitching My Novel
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1.7 NRSV
October 28, 2015
At a writing conference recently, I was scheduled to “pitch” my ideas on a novel to two of the agents who were there. I was psyching myself up for this totally new adventure when the afternoon session began. In this session, first pages of a novel by some of the attendees were read aloud by one of the leaders. The agents listened and then commented on what they heard.
It was a brutal hour. The agents weren’t mean. In fact, they came hoping to find novels they could get behind. And yet only one author was given a positive response, and that by only one of the agents.
I felt my enthusiasm melt and a lump form in my stomach, trying to push aside my now less-appreciated lunch. Why was I putting myself through this? I’m doing fine as it is in my writing, so why push myself into this highly competitive field?
The doorway to my left into the lobby looked inviting. Perhaps a caramel mocha to soothe my now fragile ego? But I stayed. I stayed because this was why I came. I came to learn from a new experience, to be critiqued by professional agents from legitimate agencies. I can’t do better without being challenged.
I walked into the “pitch” room with a smile, keeping my shaking left hand in my pocket, and made my pitches to one agent and then another.
Why do we push and stretch beyond ourselves and risk rejection and failure? Because it’s in those circumstances that we grow. Yes, we fail. But we also triumph and we are made better even when we fall short.  And the latte is much better tasting on the other side of the effort.
Prayer: Lord, thanks for giving us the drive to do better.
Tired of Trying
The highways are deserted, travelers have quit the road.” Isaiah 33.8 NRSV 

October 27, 2015

Sometimes there comes a time of weariness and second-guessing ourselves. I’ve been there. The job was going nowhere or the story I was trying to write just wasn’t working and I wondered why I was even trying anymore.
One of the great secrets of our faith, or of life for that matter, is that faithfulness has more power to win through than academic brilliance, brute strength or even riches.
Perhaps some of us are thinking of quitting or giving up. Perhaps it’s a job or a relationship. Or perhaps we are thinking of giving up on a discipline that we set for ourselves, and now we are long past the fun stage and into the grinding-it-out phase.
We can trust God to let us know when it’s time to let something go. We don’t have to worry about straining our “spiritual ears” to see if we have somehow missed the Voice of God. When God comes knocking, we know.
So, unless our health or life is on the line, let’s consider staying the course we knew was right when we started. It’s OK to be weary and dry and uninspired at times. God will let us know when it’s OK to let go.
Prayer: Lord, if it’s time to quit, I’m ready. If not, give me a little push today.

My “Not” Bucket List

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NRSV

October 13, 2015

         Bucket lists have become popular. Not writing about that. I’m writing about my “not” bucket list, the things I have no intention of ever doing.

Number one: Skydiving. The idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, plummeting toward the ground at an increasing speed and then hoping the parachute will open seems to me, somehow, wrong.

Number two: Having a mid-life crisis and buying a fast sports car. OK, Kathy tells me it is already too late for me to have a mid-life crisis. Sigh.

Number three: Burn out in the ministry. The ministry is full of middle-aged men and women who began with great visions and enthusiasm and are now just holding on until retirement. It was rarely the sharks that got to them, but it was the minnows, constantly darting it and out, nipping and nipping and stealing their energy and passion.

And so it is often the same in our lives at work or in social interaction. We need to remember the great truth about the minnows. They are small and, in the end, a mere nuisance.

 Prayer: Lord, a paper cut can seem overwhelming when that is all we look at. Lift our eyes and hearts Heavenward and we will regain our perspective.

And They Were Offended

And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.’ And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13.57-58 NRSV

October 14, 2015

Recently, the Bishop of Stockholm has proposed that a church in her diocese remove all signs of the cross. And, after they remove the symbol of their ancient faith, she wants them to put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers.

 I assume she is trying to do what she thinks is the right thing by not offending those of a different faith.

To hide our faith so as not to offend is non-biblical and counterproductive. There is nothing in the Bible that says we are to spread the good news, unless it offends.

The Bible doesn’t say let your light shine, but not too brightly. Be a city set on a hill, but make sure you’re on the backside of the hill where no one can see you. She, and those who applaud her, just make me tired.

  The Bible tells us that our faith will offend. We are not to be mean or hateful, but the mere fact that we are Christian offends. So it has been and so it shall always be until that day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Prayer: Lord, help me be kind, loving and unrelenting in my faith.
Reading the Pear Packaging
My child, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.” Proverbs 24.13 NRSV
October 15, 2015
Kathy discovered something interesting while reading the label on a package of pears this week.  It reads, “Coated with food-grade vegetable and/or shellac-based wax to maintain freshness.”
Shellac? Really? Yes, I’m sure some health agency has declared it safe. Probably the same ones who told us that whole milk was bad for us and now say, “Our bad!”
Once again, I was reminded that I need to read labels, check “facts” that people tell me and when it comes to what the Bible actually says about something, to read it for myself. 
We will be peeling those pears thoroughly.
Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom as we are inundated by advertising, cajoled by experts and wooed by those wanting something from us.

Friends, by previous scheduling I will be offline all of next week.