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.








WEEKLY BIBLE READINGS

You will find the daily Bible readings under the Bible Reading tab.

TOYS 4 TOTS




The Church is collecting toys for the Toy's 4 Tots program.  Place your gifts in the box
in the entry way by Dec.11.


ELIZABETH BENSON

Elizabeth has been a rock in the  foundation of this Church for many years. She has served as Church Treasurer for many, many years.  She also served the Topinabee Community for several years as the township librarian and township clerk.
Elizabeth was recognized at the Church service and afterword's with a cake and a gift.  Thanks for all your service, Elizabeth. She will continue handing out programs at Church.











NOTEABLES
The Noteables will perform their annual Christmas Program at the Topinabee Church on Dec. 4 at 5:30 pm. The evening will feature vocals for the Christmas Season by the Northland Noteables and a dinner.  A $25 ticket includes the dinner and show.  All proceeds will go to the Eat for Heat program. Tickets are available from Kathy @ 238-8161.


CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICES 7:30









HANGING OF THE GREENS


Andrew setting of the Nativity


Paul decorates the tree
THANKSGIVING FEAST
THE FOOD IS READY
THE DESSERT IS REALLY READY!

40 PEOPLE ENJOYED THE FEAST

SERMONS

(WAIT FOR IT TO LOAD-CHECK THE SERMONS TAB FOR MORE SERMONS)
More sermons on the sermon tab







MUSIC

CHECK THE MUSIC TAB FOR CHOIR PERFORMANCES








THIS WEEKS DEVOTIONS
by Pastor Mike

Straight Ahead

 I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left.” Deuteronomy 2.27 NRSV

 December 1, 2016

 The person, who has chosen a course and, having chosen that course, will let nothing stand in his or her way is rarely denied that goal. It may take time and much may be required in the way of sacrifice, but the goal is achieved.

Heroes and heroines who stayed the course despite the obstacles populate history. Sometimes they were down to their last penny, down to their last ounce of strength, or down to their last hope. Sometimes health began to fail and the confidence of those around them dimmed, but they simply refused to turn away from their course. Sometimes those obstacles and trials helped that person refine the goal even better. And that is why we remember them.

         One of the great truths of life is that faithfulness has more power to convince and win through than academic brilliance, brute strength or riches.
          Some of us are thinking of quitting a job, giving up on a relationship or that special project which has been in our heart for so long, but now may to have come to a barrier that we can’t navigate. If the course was right when we started, it is still right. 

It’s OK to be weary and dry and uninspired at times. And it is perfectly fine to step back, take a rest and get our bearings. Then we gather ourselves and press forward to the prize that is still waiting. 


Prayer: Lord, if it’s time to walk away, I’m ready.  If not, give me a push today
.
Christmas Is Coming!

“Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1.35b NRSV  

November 30, 2016
       I’ve seen the trucks loaded with Christmas trees headed south. Christmas is coming! Our tree is up and bright with lights. I’m scanning ahead on the program guide so I can DVR to record the Christmas specials and yes, Rudolf and the Grinch will be welcome guests again!
I’m ready to load Mannheim Steamroller into my truck’s CD player. We’ve found the stations that play all Christmas music and selected the instrumental-only station this year. 
Christmas, and the music created to celebrate Christmas, has the power to change my mood and my outlook in an instant. I’ve never grown tired of the wonder of Christmas, nor has the terrible commercialism of it ever jaded me. So I’m already celebrating Christmas!
       Christmas shopping? Hmm, Well you see, ah…it’s like this…OK, haven’t started yet. Have you?
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the true meaning of Christmas and the joy that meaning will inspire in us once again!
The Great Church

 Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20.26b NRSV

 November 29, 2016

 
I often say that part of my calling is to help good churches become the great churches they were meant to be.

       Greatness is not found in multitudes, large buildings and massive budgets, although I have nothing against any of these things. Greatness for the church comes when we genuinely seek the welfare of the individual, whether that is spiritual, intellectual, or physical.

       Of all the churches I pastored, several touched greatness. None of them averaged more than eighty to a hundred-forty in worship. They never went into a massive building program. But each of these churches, for a season, listened to what the Spirit of God was saying and simply said “yes” to being the servants of Christ to their community.

       And that is true greatness.

 Prayer: Lord, let us dream the great dreams and do the small acts of kindness that make those dreams come true.

Our Hope
 And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39.7 NRSV
November 28, 2016
Sunday we began the observance of Advent with the lighting the candle we called Hope.
 
Doctors say we can live several weeks without food.
We can perhaps live three days without water, but who can live a single day without hope? 


 
But let not our hope be in the amazing technology of our age, nor in dynamic leaders or sympathetic bureaucrats.
 
Our hope should not be in our hands that become arthritic or our minds that wander.
Nor should we trust the passing breath of wind that is fame, or the weakest of all the gods, money.
 
Let our hope be in the name of the Lord. 
Prayer: Lord, my trust in in You.

My Road to Thanksgiving



“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
November 22, 2016

         We find genuine thankfulness in many ways. And sometimes being thankful comes from the most difficult of experiences.  As a child, I was loved, protected, fed regularly, had a roof over my head and a family support system. Whereas I was pleased with the arrangement, I had experienced nothing different.
As I went out on my own and had jobs that I didn’t particularly love and certainly were not my life’s ambition, I grumbled often. One day, a serious injury left me unable to work. As I recovered, I found a deep gratitude that I could work again.
         Like many, I thought that genuine freedom from responsibilities and doing what I wanted, the way I wanted, when I wanted, would be a blast. There was pleasure in that way, but it was also hollow.  Now I’m thankful that I am needed at home and at work. It creates within me the soul and mind of the man I always wanted to be.
         I’m still human and sometimes feel put out when my responsibilities crowd my schedule and my thinking. However, at the end of the day, there is often a smile on my face and joy in my heart.
         The holiday we call Thanksgiving is almost here, but thanksgiving is already in our hearts or that day will only be food and football.
Prayer: Lord, thanks!




The Cure
 “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” Proverbs 17. 22 NRSV




November 21, 2016

One of the things I remember best about Thanksgiving, besides the endless supply of great cooking, is the laughter.  Spending time with friends and family is always a joyous occasion. It doesn’t take long for the funny stories and the teasing to erupt and laughter soon becomes the music of the day.

I remember one occasion that I traveled many hours to be with family. I really didn’t want to go. I was fighting a cold and a headache. The very idea of being in a house with boisterous people, even friends and family, seemed a chore. But soon upon arriving, all my hurts were gone. A doctor might say the physical act of laughing stimulates endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body, thus curing me. Or perhaps the doctor would tell me the laughing dilated the blood vessels in my head and thus relieved pressure and cured the headache.

Me? I think it was being with friends and family that reminded me how blessed I was and being under the weather was a little thing after all.

 Prayer: Lord, thank You for family and friends who lighten our hearts.




Thankful for the Trials
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1.2-3 NRSV




 November 17, 2016

In sixth grade, I remember Mr. Wallace telling us the story of the agricultural disaster that hit the cotton crop in Alabama in 1895. The Mexican boll weevil had arrived and destroyed this major crop of the farmers. It proved impossible to eradicate by the means available at the time.

Forced to diversify, the farmers turned to the humble peanut. Thank you George Washington Carver! Within a generation, the farmers were more prosperous than ever, all because of a disaster.

A monument was erected years later, and at the base of the monument appears the following inscription:

“In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the Herald of Prosperity this monument was erected by the Citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”

I have taken much comfort in this and stories like it. They are real life examples of what James is saying and reminds me that the people and things I fought against the most or even dreaded, oft times were the authors of the best things in my life.

 Prayer:  Lord, thank You for failures turned to victory, obstacles that became stepping-stones taking me higher, and tears that watered the seeds of joy that would come later.




The Legend of the Dark Seeds





The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28.7.NRSV





November 16, 2016



There is a legend of a man who sought out the barn where Satan stored the dark seeds, also known as the seeds of discouragement. There they waited for the right season to be planted into someone and thus damage that life and often the lives around that person.
As he continued his investigation in that dreary structure, he found a desk. Going through the drawers, he found a manual entitled, “Where to plant and where not to plant these seeds.”
He thumbed through the pages, each telling the best season to plant. They went by many names, such as times of self-pity, self-absorption, and self-indulgence among others.
Finally, he came to the last page titled, “Where not to waste the seeds.” There was but a single sentence: “Never waste the seeds in the heart of a thankful person, for those seeds will never sprout or grow.”
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. It really ticks off the devil and some of the mean people sitting around us. Just saying.

Prayer:  Lord, thank You!



For What We Have

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Philippians 4.11    NRSV





 November 15, 2016





 It is said that it’s better to be thankful for what we have than to dwell on what we don’t.  Good advice even though most of us still are not sure about it all the time.



       The story is told of a tourist traveling through Mexico many years ago. The tourist came across a natural phenomenon somewhat common in that part of the country, hot and cold springs in close walking distance from each other. The people could bring their clothes and boil them in the hot water and then walk over to the cold spring and rinse them.

       The tourist said to the guide, “I imagine the people are pleased that nature has provided an ample supply of clean hot and cold water so close together.”

       “Not really,” said the guide. “They complain that nature does not provide the soap.”

       I would laugh at this, but it sounds a lot like me some days. You?

 Prayer:  Lord, I have so much for which to be thankful. Let me always remember that.




Too Committed to the Church


 But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6.33 NRSV





 November 14, 2016


Many years ago, my father entered the political arena. Illinois created a Regional Superintendent position and my father decided to run for that position.





During the campaign, the man running against my father decided on a unique attack on Dad’s ability to do the job.

My father stumbled onto this strategy while campaigning in a small town. A man walked up to my father and said,  “I was just talking to your opponent. He said you were a deacon in your church and although you’re a good man, he said you’re too committed to your church and community service to have the time to take on the job of Superintendent. We’ve never met. I’m the pastor of the First Baptist church here and you have my vote!” 

My father won each time he ran for that position. In the long run, committing ourselves to the work of God is never a liability.

 Prayer:  Lord, You and me, all the way.



Circumstances





We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28 NRSV





November 9, 2016





It was a hard day. Circumstances stood between me and my self-appointed goals. My goals were positive so I was sure that these hindrances should be pushed aside as quickly as possible.
Or did I see things too narrowly? I’ve begun to suspect that my circumstances, good and bad by my reasoning, make up more than half of the material that helps me become the man God wants me to be.
That which gets in my way is not always a challenge to be overcome, but is, in itself, life. And those things which seem, at the moment, to hold me back are in fact steering me into the will of God.
In understanding this truth, I gain strength and my faith grows deeper.

Prayer:  Lord, teach me that sometimes, the rock that seems to block my path is, instead, a cornerstone for the new life You have in mind.


Pleasant Words



 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16.24 NRSV



 November 8, 2016



 We were having lunch in the historic part of Saint Charles, Missouri before the wedding a week ago. The waiter asked where we were from, and soon he was regaling us about the Christmas season there.



“You have to come back” he encouraged us enthusiastically. He described in glowing details the many things the community did, including having Mary and Joseph go down the main street looking for a place to stay.



By the time he finished telling us all about that celebration there (it lasts for a month), we wanted to come back!



It caused me to wonder how we paint the picture of our company, school or church.


A man in my home church told this story on himself about golfing with his friends. Afterward, as they sat around and talked, he would always invite them to church. After years of none of them coming, he finally asked them directly why they had never come.

“You complain the whole round about the mean people in the church, the way the leadership is taking the church the wrong way and how upset you are. Then you invite us. Why should we come?”

 Prayer:  Lord, remind me that people do hear what I say, for good or not.



A Natural Fertilizer
“Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14.4 KJV
November 7, 2016
As some of you may remember, this is one of my favorite verses.  It isn’t difficult or complicated. But I’ve not heard anyone preach on it, although in the dim past I have done so. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s going into the rotation soon.
Using the agrarian metaphor that refers to a natural fertilizer, this verse makes the simple and yet profound point that if we’re going to do anything of worth or value, we’re going to make a mess. 
And in making that mess, we often have to raise a stink and live with that for a while before we celebrate a harvest. And no perfume or pleasing words will eradicate that smell for a long time.
Prayer:  Lord, give me a vision and the strength me to do what I should and leave the cleanup later.

AutoCorrect




You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.” Psalm 139.2 NRSV




November 3, 2016




“au·to·cor·rect  noun A software function that automatically makes or suggests corrections for mistakes in spelling or grammar made while typing.”



       I’ve learned to dislike this boon to writing. When I first discovered in the 80s that computers came with spell checking, I was in heaven and have found it a terrific help. AutoCorrect? Not so much.
Sometimes it corrects before I’ve even finished writing the word. And because I’m a pastor, some of the theological terminology is apparently foreign to the machine. And on these occasions, it changes what I am writing into words strange and not germane to the ideas I’m writing about. Sometimes I catch it. Sometimes I do not. Fortunately for me, my human AutoCorrect, i.e, Sean, is good at that in these devotions.
And there is something a little creepy about a machine telling me what I really want to say. Could it be that the rise of the machines is upon us? OK, not yet.
 But more relevant to my daily life, I’ve caught myself mentally “AutoCorrecting” people as they talk, as if I already knew what they were going to say. On more than one occasion, I’ve determined where they were going in the conversation; I went there and found myself alone and, embarrassed. Then I looked for a way to find out what I missed.  Need to work on that.
Prayer: Lord, I need to remember that mind reading was an elective in college and I didn’t take it.


Raking Against the Wind
 A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Ecclesiastes 3.6 NRSV
November 2, 2016
It isn’t called “fall” for nothing. Beautiful yellow leaves are continuously decorating our yard. The problem is we don’t want it decorated that way. So yesterday I began the autumn ritual of raking and blowing the leaves.
As you may have surmised by the title of this devotion, I had an adversary, an opponent who was invisible, but mighty in power.
I had worked for about fifteen minutes on the driveway and it was mostly cleared when the rain came. Not one of water, but of beautiful, floating and unwanted  leaves. Where I had just raked clear it was now carpeted by yellow.
I knew this might happen before I started. But I wanted to give it a try because the sun was out and the temperature warm. So I raked against the wind. The wind won.
Sometimes what we face is going to beat us; no matter how much we try. Rules at work that we don’t understand, but are firmly in place. Or dealing with individuals who have no flexibility, no matter how wrong we know they are. You know who I mean.
What can we do? We can walk away from the situation and sometimes that is best. Or, as I will do, wait until the wind stops and then finish the job.
Prayer: Lord, Help me know when to stay and stand my ground, when to walk away or when to wait for the wind to change.

A Wedding in Saint Charles


 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4.9-11NRSV


 November 1, 2016



 I had the honor of officiating my niece’s wedding last week. During the rehearsal, there was the usual difficulty of getting the young flower girl to walk down the aisle. Each time she would get part of the way down, she would run to her mother.



The night of the wedding, she got about half way there and went into overdrive and rocketed down the aisle, petals flying out of her basket and a big smile on her face.



No, it wasn’t the plan but no one cared and there was happiness in the moment.



Weddings, despite what we see on YouTube, are not meant to be a performance. They are a time of joy and also solemnness as two people make promises to each other.



Seeing Patti and Josh take their vows seriously and yet with unmistakable joy, warmed our hearts and gave me much confidence that these two young adults are on the right path.



 Prayer: Lord, too often we miss the wonder of the moment looking for perfection in things that need not be perfect.

When It Rains
 “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5.45b NRSV

October 31, 2016

       It was raining when I began to write these words a week ago. This autumn, the rain has come often and heavy. We finally purchased new gutters and they are efficiently doing their job. Kathy and I also purchased new raincoats for such days. Just before I sat down to type, Trooper and I came in from our walk. As he shook the rain out of his fur, I took off that new coat and was pleasingly dry. Preparation is important.
       To rage against the rain, to cry out that it was too much might momentarily release some tension, but it is otherwise always useless, unlike the gutters and raincoats.
       But even when we are prepared and watching the skies, the rain comes down. It doesn't care whether the forecast called for it or not. It just comes.
Rains of varying kinds come into our lives. We prepare and are watchful, but the rain comes.  And it doesn’t always come because we did something wrong, for rain falls equally upon us all.
The most important thing we should do is also the most difficult in that moment. This is to learn and grow in the midst of the rain and wind. But if we turn to our Creator and ask, the Author of the rains will bless us with wisdom and strength.
Otherwise, we just get wet.    

Prayer: Lord, You know I do learn from these times, but usually it is after much time and complaining has passed. Help me work on that.