THE FRIENDLY WHITE CHURCH ON THE HILL



CHURCH MISSION STATEMENT

We are called to bring people into a personal relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ.
We accomplish this by bringing others into the community of the church through genuine friendship and fellowship. In this loving fellowship we grow in faith through the Word, community, prayer and worship.




THUNDER BAY ELK VIEWING SLEIGH

RIDE!













SOUPS ON!

A soup cook-off was held at Paul and Nancy's home.
There was lots of good food and all had a great time.

Paul and Steve at solving the worlds problems
Bob  is trying to explain why he has Buckeye slipees on while standing under the Michigan Flag!
Debbie and Caren playing pool????



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MUSIC

The Topinabee Church Choir
CHECK THE MUSIC TAB FOR CHOIR PERFORMANCES











THIS WEEKS DEVOTIONS
by Pastor Mike


Or Get Out of the Way 
      
“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” Nehemiah 6.3a NRSV

April 6, 2017

         In my time as a pastor, I’ve continually run across an amazing phenomenon. There are those people who, upon seeing something actually being done, attack it. Their reasons often, but not always, seem logical. The fatal flaw is they themselves have no positive plan. Their end game is to stop the church from moving forward, no matter how they frame it.
         In the church, I’ve personally been told that the growth must stop because: “If this keeps going, our church will no longer be a quaint little church.” When did Jesus say our destiny was to be a quaint little church?
         Others, noting the growth, have complained, “But you’re not doing it the exact way our denomination suggests.” What works, works.
         And the most infamous, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Thus was born the last seven words of the church.
  
Prayer: Lord, when I see someone doing a good thing, help me get on the bandwagon and stand between those who are doing and those who are complaining. 

Like It or Not

“Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” Philippians  3.17 NRSV

April 5, 2017 

       As before, it happened again this week. I received a request from someone I interacted with when they were a young, asking me to be there during a special and happy moment.
We are role models, whether we want to be or not. There are those in our lives, some close, some less so, that watch us. They will evaluate us by how we conduct ourselves in business, play and how we treat each other.
We cannot sidestep this responsibility by saying how human we are. People have a funny habit of choosing their role models themselves.
No, we’re not perfect, but no one expects us to be. Mostly people are watching to see if we are genuine, and that carries the weight.

Prayer: Lord, help me to showiness kind to those I only meet in passing for sometimes they will pass my way again.

Pumping Cement

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6.2 NRSV

April 4, 2017


       The work crew redoing the master bathroom has brought with it a handy dumpster where my wife and I have the opportunity to rid ourselves of accumulated junk. First on the list were bags of cement kindly left by the prior owner.
Using my trusty cart, the cement was easily transported to the dumpster. It was there that I had to lift the bags from ground level to shoulder height and into the dumpster. Let’s just say I’m a few years removed from this being a good idea.
When the bag got to chest height, I was no longer using my still-decent leg muscles but was working only the arms. Close, but in it went.
That next lift was as close to failure as one could get as I stalled halfway up, a super bad idea, but managed to rebound and finish the job. The years have not been overly kind to my biceps (hush!).
All that first day, as I continued to loading the dumpster, I waited for the muscles so cruelly treated to speak their piece, but had no problems. Going to bed, I was sure that I would pay a price the second day. Much to my surprise, I was fine.
But the third day brought no resurrection or new eternal body. Instead I lived out the old cliché of hurting where I had forgotten there were even muscles.
As hard and painful as this was, I found it far easier and more comfortable than loving and forgiving those who mistreat me or mine, or returning good for evil.

Prayer: Lord, perhaps I still have some “heavy lifting” to do in my life.

The Clutter of the Modern

 But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” Luke 5.5-6 NRSV

April 3, 2017

When I leave the house each day, there are a few things I take with me. There are car keys and the keys to the church and I must not forget my wallet with my driver’s license and credit cards, the proof of who I am and that I can legally drive the car.
Then there is my cell phone, carefully placed away from my wallet. Why? Too close and too long together and something in my phone can de-magnetize my credit card. Been there and done that. I round this out with my glasses to see with and sunglasses to shade my eyes.
When I first started driving back in the last century, all I needed was wallet and keys and I was gone!
       I choose not to give up what each item does for me.  But they are a daily reminder that my life can get cluttered with all sorts of things that are supposed to make my life better.
So now, more than ever, I must find a time to unplug myself from the modern. I suspect this is true for most of us. So let’s go fly-fishing or boating, let’s walk along the shore or through the woods or go onto the porch or deck and sit down. And then turn everything – and I mean everything – off and let the buzzing in our ears and minds grow fainter and fainter until we can hear ourselves and those closest to us.
Prayer: If Jesus found it needful to get away and be alone, how much more do we need to do the same?

The Clutter of the Modern
 But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” Luke 5.5,16NRSV
March 28, 2017
 When I leave the house each day, there are a few things I take with me. There are car keys and the keys to the church and I must not forget my wallet with my driver’s license and credit cards, the proof of who I am and that I can legally drive the car.
Then there is my cell phone, carefully placed away from my wallet. Why? Too close and too long together and something in my phone can de-magnetize my credit card. Been there and done that. I round this out with my glasses to see with and sunglasses to shade my eyes.
When I first started driving back in the last century, all I needed was my wallet and keys and I was gone!
       I choose not to give up what each item does for me.  But they are a daily reminder that my life can get cluttered with all sorts of things that are supposed to make my life better.
So now, more than ever, I must find a time to unplug myself from the modern. I suspect this is true for most of us. So let’s go fly-fishing or boating, let’s walk along the shore or through the woods or go onto the porch or deck and sit down. And then turn everything – and I mean everything – off and let the buzzing in our ears and minds grow fainter and fainter until we can hear ourselves and those closest to us. If Jesus found it needful to get away and be alone, how much more do we need it?
 Prayer: Lord, help me relearn the joy of silence in the world You gave us.  

The God Police
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…”Exodus 20.8-10 NRSV

 March 27, 2017

 The Gospels call them the Pharisees. I call them the God Police. They didn’t think that God’s commandments clearly covered everything and so went about clarifying and adding them. God, apparently, needed the help.
Most notorious of their addendums was the number of laws they created to cover God’s commandment that no work was to be done on the Sabbath. In Exodus 20.8-10, God gives His instructions that cover three verses which total only about fifty-five words.
When the Pharisees were done, they had written over a hundred addendums with hundreds of words, all in an effort to improve on what God had sent down the mountain with Moses.
The God Police of today have their own additions to the Bible. I’ve seen churches that proclaimed on their church signs, “Only Southern Gospel Music sung here.” Neither Silent Night nor Amazing Grace is Southern Gospel in structure.
I was working with a church where a greeter almost turned some of my friends away at the door by commenting on their casual attire, saying, “This is a dress-up church.” Strangely, I never have seen that verse in the Bible. On and on, generation after generation, the God Police, seeing that God has somehow overlooked these important codicils, work hard at teaching us what God left out.
In the end, the Pharisees developed 365 negative commands, 248 positive laws and 613 laws.
Jesus, on the other hand, gave us two laws: “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Let’s go with Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, remind us that it takes genuine arrogance to think we can make Your word better.  

A Rose Is a Rose

 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand." 2 Samuel 23.6 NRSV     
           
 March 23, 2017

 Along with my first driver's license came responsibilities. Like many of you, some of them had nothing to do with safety or taking care of the car. Mine included taking sisters to the Rec-Club for swimming or occasional quick runs to Martin’s IGA. I often took a detour to the Dairy Queen.
Another task was to drive the 17 miles to Grandma Bell’s house in Wayne City and mow her yard and do various little jobs.
       I was cool with most it, but trimming the rose bushes was not all that pleasant. Roses look nice, they smell nice, but they will prick your fingers the moment you quit paying attention. Sort of like the eighth graders I taught in public school. Well, except for the smelling nice part.
       “Where are your gloves?” Grandma asked one summer day.
       “Don’t have any,” I responded while carefully negotiating my way around a red rosebush.
       “Why not?”
       “Didn’t need any until I starting trimming roses,” I responded. Grandma was not impressed. Considering her surviving the Great Depression and waiting at home for husband and then two sons to come home from Would Wars One and Two, I suspect it took a lot to impress her.
       Someone once wrote that we could complain about the thorns or we could appreciate the gentle fragrance and the beauty of the rose.
       Sure sounds like good advice to me. Well, that and getting a good pair of gloves and yes, Kathy has made sure I have good gloves!
Prayer: Lord, thanks for the beauty that I sometimes miss while complaining. I’ll work on it.

Can We Handle It?

 “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8.32 NKJV

 March 22, 2017

 “You can’t handle the truth!” This is well-delivered line from the movie “A Few Good Men” that has found its way unto our everyday lexicon.
While it is mostly used humorously in our conversations, it is strikingly accurate. Experience has shown me how poorly we often react to the bare truth of a thing. Truth is a two-edged blade that cuts through lies and facades, but often wounds both the one hearing and the one speaking.
Friendships have been lost and relationships damaged by the utterance of just a few words that were, after all, true.
As a pastor, there have been many times I was called upon to take a hard truth to someone. I never looked forward to that moment, but I went. Goes with the job.
But for all of us, there comes a time to speak the truth. Truth is best shared gently, the speaker being fully engaged in the moment and not dropping the bomb and walking away. And spoken plainly without apology or back-peddling.
There is often a price. But to do less is to allow a lie or half-truth to continue unchallenged.
Prayer: Lord, give me the strength to be truthful with a loving spirit.


The Final Word

Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9.23-24 NRSV

March 21, 2017

I believe that truth and unconditional love, standing without so much as bulletproof vests or even a butter knife, will have the final word.
Oft times battered and sometimes apparently defeated, these twin pillars of all that is good and righteous will emerge triumphant. But it will hurt. It may hurt a lot.
This pain is not a sign of failure or a flaw.  Pain is sometimes the currency we called upon to pay.
 Prayer:  Lord, as we stand firm for Your true way, let us always feel You close. It gets ugly down here sometimes, but I think You remember that.  


Fearfully and Wonderfully

 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” Psalm 139.14 NRSV

 March 20, 2017

 We travel miles to see the wonders of our world.  Those who live on the plains go in search of mountains, tall and regal.
Those who labor on the mountains journey to see the great waters and hear thrilling crashing of waves sent from the other side of the globe.
We send telescopes into the sky and beyond to take pictures of the glory and majesty of a universe that seems infinite.
       But real wonder is often found in counting the fingers of a newborn child, hearing a musician whose music needs no words to speak to us or simply lying in a hammock listening to the steady breathing of the one we love.

Prayer:  Lord, Your creation is beyond our poor vocabulary, but wow!   

A Name on the Breeze
"For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name.” Isaiah 45.4 NRSV
March 16, 2017
I heard my name called
By a voice that was familiar
Softly riding that morning breeze
Carried over the lake
Or was it from the hills?
No commands followed
Or instructions
No criticisms
Or directions to obey.
Just my name on the morning’s breeze,
Suspended in the air
Spoken by a Voice
I swear I know
And I smiled
It was good to be remembered.
Prayer:  Lord, good to know wherever we are, You have not lost track of us.

Pious Excuses

March 15th, 2017

 “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years…When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath…” 
Luke 13.10-14 NRSV

There is a pious reason given for not doing good. We no longer seem concerned about doing right on Sunday, our Sabbath, but note there are still pious excuses given for not doing good.
“If I help them at this point, they might become too dependent on me.”  Let’s deal with that if it happens and help.
“I would love to help the church in this area, but I just don’t feel led.”  The Bible teaches that when we know to do good and then don’t, we’ve sinned. Let’s forget the feeling and do the good thing!
“They will only waste what I give them.”  Often we have entertained angels unaware.
“There is so little I can do.” Then let’s do the little we can and leave the rest to God and His plans.
 Prayer:  I can fool others and even a part of myself, but never You. 
Driving the Long Way
 “After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.” Mark 16.12 NRSV
 March 9, 2017
 The Interstate is a modern marvel and I’m grateful for it.  Faster than the roads I grew up driving, it allows me to get where I’m going in record time. And I miss the congestion of the cities and all the stop signs and lights.
And I also miss the interesting architecture and the visible history and personality of the towns. I miss the local eateries and settle for the same restaurants one exit after another.
Sometimes faster isn’t better.
Years ago I read the book “Blue Highways” by Least Heat Moon.  The premise of the book is that the secondary roads are colored blue in maps (remember those?). It was by taking those blue highways that he met much of America.  He observed things differently on that trip. He sampled regional cooking, discovered where people lived, worked and heard their stories.
Taking the long way, whatever our journey is, will let us see what we’ve missed in our quest to save time.  And perhaps remember that sometimes, the journey is the reason we travel, not the destination.
Prayer:  Lord, some days I move and work so fast, I miss the day itself.
The Value of the Necklace
 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’”  Luke 15.8,9 NRSV
 March 7, 2017
 This scripture might seem a straightforward story of a woman looking for lost money.  But in the parables of Jesus, we know to look further.  It was the custom for a bride to wear part of her dowry as a necklace made up of ten silver coins.  So this was not a quest for mere money.  This was a search for her dowry, that is, for her economic security and independence.  But even more than that, she was seeking the symbol of her marriage and her love.
This is what Jesus is teaching us.  Not merely that we are valuable, like a lost coin, but that His search is motivated by love.  Because it is for love, this search will not end until that which was lost is found.  And then look out, because that’s when the party begins!
 Prayer:  Lord, thanks for searching for us until You find us.

Life in the Real Church

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3.12

March 7, 2017

            There was a couple many years ago who had just started attending the church I was pastoring. They were excited about having found what they called “the church they had been looking for.”
Some time later, I discovered they had attended seven different churches in the previous ten years. Several months after that revelation, they were gone.
       How could they leave so shortly after finding the church they had been looking for? They were members of the tribe of wandering people who have a vision of church that is unrealistic. And when they discover the church is made up of real people, their traveling pathology kicks in.
       These folks have a fantasy about what church should be that does not include those of us who are imperfect, who have sharp edges and our own ideas of what church should be.
       Dreams and ideals are important and have the power to propel us forward in our quest to be the church Jesus calls us to be. But there must be room in our dreams and visions of the church for the imperfect, the struggling and yes, even the annoying.

Prayer: Lord, You put here us for many reasons, but loving each other is at the top of the list.

Live in the Real Church Part 2
And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.” Ephesians 1.22 NRSV
March 8, 2017
It was a church long ago and far away. During my time there, I received a series of requests from the good members on how to improve the church service. Some of the mild and polite ones are listed below:
Shorten the sermons because we’ve heard it all before.
Expand the number of fellowship meals and class parties because that’s what church is really about.
Take the children out of the service because they distract from the holiness of the service.
Bring the children back into the service so they can learn how to behave in church.
More Bach on the organ.
Less Bach and more contemporary music.
Why do we sing so much?
We need to sing all the verses of all the hymns.
And, of course, turn the thermostat up, turn it down, turn it up, turn it down!
I wonder, what kind of church would it be if we all got our way?
Prayer:  Lord, lest we forget, it is Your church.

Brave Enough To Let Go.

Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
 Isaiah 43.18, 19 NRSV

March 1, 2017

       Being afraid is OK. It means we are about to do something scary. And life is full of scary things!
       The creature that lived under my bed was one. It had the ability to become invisible when I poked my head out from under my magic blanket, making it a sneaky adversary until I was six.
       When I was older, asking a girl out on a date left my mouth dry and my heart pounding. What if she said yes?!
       But the scary things I’ve done often possessed the possibility of becoming a happy time in my life.
One of those scary things was letting go of what I could not change. This freed me from an all-too-common affliction some of us have. We think making every thing and everyone better is somehow up to us. And that we have the mystical power to alter reality and make what hasn’t changed for years suddenly change where time and others have failed. How has that worked for you? Me either.

Prayer:  Lord, show us how to do our best and when we find ourselves facing a brick wall, how not to pound our head against it, but step around it and go on with our lives.