Monday, December 4, 2017

Have We Lost the Recipe of Christmas?

                                                1st Sunday of Advent!

A.   Ladies or Gentlemen, have you ever lost a recipe?

B.   What do you do?

C.   If you don't know where to go to get it back, you can't make that
particular dish anymore!

I want to look this morning at some people who lost a recipe and it had potentially disastrous results, but they found it.  I also want to look at a recipe that we may be in danger of losing
today and look at the potential results of that loss!

II Kings 22:8-11, 15-20

I.   As we look at this passage:

A.   We see that Judah had lost the recipe for living for God.

B.   King Josiah's father and grandfather had led the people of Judah  away from God and into idolatry!

C.   Here the book of the Law is found and the King rents his clothes as he realizes their sad state, and he sends these men to inquire of a prophetess whether or not these things will happen.

D.   The prophetess, Huldah, tells that they will, but because of his
repentance, it wouldn't happen in his lifetime!

E.   Destruction was sure if they hadn't found this recipe and lived by it.

F.   I want to take perhaps a different angle on this example from history this morning.

G.   They had lost an entire scroll , but I want to look at the possibility that we have lost just a part of the book as we know it!
1.   That part being the story about Christmas.  We have lost the
recipe for Christmas!
2.   I want to look at where this loss is taking us!

II.  Why do I think we have lost the recipe for Christmas?  Our world is living by a different recipe for Christmas today than in earlier Christianity!

A.   Christmas has become a time of giving the biggest and best gift!
1.   We don't want anyone to give us a bigger gift than we are able
to give them back.
2.   We don't want to be in debt to anyone!
3.   We want our children to have the best.  We want them to get
as much as their friends!
4.   Today a small gift is not appreciated!

B.   Christmas has become a time of exchanging gifts and not giving
1.   We don't give gifts unless we can expect one in return.
2.   We are insulted if we give a gift and don't receive one, so
we don=t give them one the next year!           

C.   So, Christmas has been commercialized.  You can't blame the retailers.  They make the most sales between Halloween and Christmas, so why not advertize?

D.   To some, Christmas has become a time of throwing a big party and having the boys over for "a good old time."

E.   To some, Christmas has become a time for family.  The family gets
together and talks about the past year. This is good except Christ is never mentioned!

F.   To some, Christmas has become a time of isolation! Just them and the T.V.: first the parades, then sports, and maybe some specials.  This isn't all bad, but again, Christ is never mentioned.   

G.   But I'm talking about the world am I not?
1.   After all we have Sunday School lessons about the real meaning
of Christmas!
2.   We have sermons on the real meaning of Christmas!
3.   But is Christ mentioned on your Christmas Day?  If he isn't
then you have told your children that he really isn't
important after all.  All of these other things are what is

III. What will be the result of our losing this recipe for Christmas (The Christmas Story)?  Where is this taking us?

A.   The Christmas story along with Easter is the basis of Christianity!

B.   If we fail to get this message across, we will loss our children!!

C.   Christmas is a chance to get across not only the birth of Christ but the reason for the birth (the gospel).

D.   If we do not emphasize in our homes that which is taught in church, we are going to lose them!

IV.  What do we need to do?

A.   Make Christmas a remembrance and a celebration of the birth of Christ!

B.   Make everything that you can be a reminder of the real meaning of
1.   Share that the reason we exchange gifts is in celebration and remembrance of the gift God gave to us: Jesus!
2.   Make the Christmas tree a reminder of the real meaning of
a.   Tell your kids or grandkids that we have the star on our trees to remind us of the star that led the wise men to Jesus!
b.   Tell them the angel reminds us of the angel that told the shepherds the good news!
c.   Tell them we put candy canes on our trees to remind us of the shepherds (they are shaped like the shepherds staff).
d.   Tell them we use lights or candles to remind us that
Jesus is the light of the world, and tell why he is
called that!
e.   Tell them we use an evergreen tree to remind us that Jesus brings us everlasting life (explain what that means and how we get it)!
                                    f.   Have a birthday party for Jesus!

C.   Sometime during your Christmas read the Christmas story (Luke 2) or with young children tell it to them maybe using a nativity scene to act it out, and share what the Christmas story means to us!      


A.   It isn't too late!

B.   We can make the real meaning of Christmas come to life in our homes!
We have found the recipe!  If we use it, we could make a difference in our children and grandchildren!

C.   Are you doing that?  I challenge you to do it this year!  It will have eternal consequences.

D.   Maybe you=re here this morning and never have made a commitment to Christ.  You can do that today as you encounter Christ at the table for communion! If you make a first time commitment, let me know so I can help you with you new walk in Christ.


Monday, November 27, 2017

People Care!

Christ the King Sunday!

A.   Today is Christ the King Sunday.

B.   It is the last Sunday in the Christian year.  Next Sunday, is the 1st Sunday of Advent which begins the new Christian year.

C.   The Christian year makes a cycle through the life of Christ, beginning with the Advent or coming of Christ into the world and ending with Christ reigning now and forever.

D.   In our scripture for today, Christ the King sets up the perimeters by which we will be judged to enter His Kingdom.

Trans:   Today, I want to talk to you about "People Care:" my term for a plan that Christ the King instituted, whereby we will be judged and thereby we should live.

Matt. 25:31-46

I.   Definition of "People Care."
A.   It is a plan of ministry in which the needs of people are the main objective.

B.   It is very evident in this scripture how important the needs of people are to Christ!

II.  Why do we need to talk about "People Care?"

A.   So we won't get our priorities mixed up and forget people!  An example of this would be the story of the good Samaritan!(Luke 10:30-36) Don't Read!
1.   The priest and Levite got caught up in whatever they were doing and failed to meet a need!
2.   People have different needs:
a.   Spiritual - Christian or not!
I Peter 3:15 "Always be ready to give an answer."
b.   Emotional – family problems!
c.   physical -  death or sickness!
d.   financial - And there are other ways to help other than giving them money!  Sometimes, these ways are more needed! 
AIt has been said, if you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day.  If you teach them to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.@

B.   It is so easy today to get to looking at statistics and figures and forget the people that those figures represent!
1.   Our attendance figures many times do us an injustice or give us a false security whichever the case may be.  We look at the attendance figures to see how our church did this week!
2.   Christ would judge by how many people we've cared for and helped this week!

III. We talk about APeople Care@ because it is directly related to the mission of our church: making disciples for Jesus Christ!  We make disciples because we care for people, not because we want to increase our numbers and not so the United Methodist Church will survive! All that we do should be because we care,
especially for those on the outside:

A.   Outreach Campaigns.
B.   Teaching & small groups.
C.   Youth ministries.
D.   Children’s Ministries.
     E.   Women’s and Men=s ministries
F.   Nursing Home ministry.
G.   Newsletter.
H.   Singing ministries.
I.   Mission & food pantry.
J.   Letting our church be used for Community events and ministries!

IV.  Each one of us should adopt the "People Care" plan for our    lives!

A.   Some of us are excluded from helping or doing some things because of money or talents!

B.   People are a resource that all of us have!

1.   We all touch people every day with our lives.
2.   God has seen to it that we all have a supply.
3.   Do we meet needs or help them as we touch their lives?  Not only on Sunday but every day of the week!

V.   If we all will adopt this plan of ministry where the needs of people are the main objective, we will begin to see some things happen.

A.   We will see more visitors in our church because some of us have reached out to them!

B.   We will see some of them making commitments to Jesus Christ!

C.   We as Christians will see our needs being met because someone else cared enough to notice we too had a need and ministered to that need!

D.   The end result?  Our Church will grow!  The Kingdom of God will grow!

VI.  This was the basis of Christ's ministry, caring for people and      meeting their needs.

A.   He came to a world in need of salvation to meet that need!

B.   In doing that, His was a life of meeting many needs:  physical, emotional, and spiritual.

C.   If we as Christians aren't duplicating that life with our
lives, it's time for a change!

Christianity is a continual change!

A.   Christ the King sets the perimeters in this scripture by which we will be judged: our care for people. 

B.   That should be our motivation.  Are we motivated by our care for people?  We can be if we will tap into the source!  Christ can care through us!

C.   We just need to yield to Christ the King and let Christ reign in our lives today! 

D.   We can be saved from a purposeless life!  We can be saved from a useless existence!  In Christ, we can find a purpose for living; the Bible calls it the abundant life!

E.   Christ says here it includes caring for people.  Let's yield to Christ this morning and let Christ bring this kind of life to light in us! Amen!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Gratitude of Thanksgiving

                                       Thanksgiving Sunday!
     A.   Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day; it is a day our             country has set aside to stop, count our blessings, and       give thanks.

     B.   A little background on the 1st Thanksgiving:
          1.   1620 -    The Pilgrims left England on the                              Mayflower:  102 people.
                        "Speedwell" - a sister ship, after 2
                        tries returned back to England.
          2.   After sailing 3 months (a very hard and dangerous              journey), they landed in New England (Now                      Massachusetts) in Dec. 1620.
          3.   The first winter was a hard one, and many died!
          4.   After the first harvest of the New England                     colonists, in 1621, Governer Bradford made                     provisions for a day of thanksgiving and prayer.
          5.   In 1623, a day of fasting and prayer during a                  drought was turned into Thanksgiving when it began            to rain!
          6.   Since then it has developed into a custom that we              celebrate Thanksgiving annually.

     C.   Thanksgiving Day is a good holiday.  We ought to
          observe it and take it seriously!

          As we approach Thanksgiving and we prepare to express
          the "Gratitude of Thanksgiving," let's look this
          morning at Gratitude and see how it should be something
          that we express all year round!

                         Luke 17:11-19
I.   Gratitude.
     A.   Ten lepers were healed, and only one showed gratitude!

     B.   Christ was pleased with the one who showed gratitude.              (vs. 19)

     C.   Websters def:
          Gratitude:    a feeling of thankful appreciation for                             favors or benefits received:  warm,                            appreciative response to kindness.
          It takes both!  Appreciation and Response.

          So there are two ways we can be lacking in expressing

          1.   Some are thankful when they see good reason to be.             They just don't see many good reasons to be.  They            need to open their eyes!  They are failing on the            1st part:  appreciation.

          2.   Some feel truly thankful; it is just difficult for             them to express it.  These fail on the response!              They also lack Gratitude!  The other lepers may
              have felt grateful, but they still failed to
              express it.

II.  In what areas do we need to show Gratitude?
     A.   We need to thank God for ourselves.
          1.   We are told to "Love others as we love ourselves."             We aren't to think of ourselves more highly than                   others, but we shouldn't belittle ourselves
          2.   We need to realize our self worth.  We should be                    able to be thankful for who we are!
          3.   If I can't appreciate me, I'll probably not                         appreciate you either!

     B.   We need to be thankful for what we have or where we

          "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God       in Christ Jesus concerning you."  (I Thess. 5:18)

          Paul said, "I have learned in whatever state I am,             therewith to be content."  (Phil. 4:11)

          1.   We need to be thankful for our country.
          2.   We need to be thankful for what God has given us!              We may not have the best house, but we should be                   thankful for the one we have!

     C.   We need to be thankful for Special People in our lives!       We need to not only thank God, but we need to express
          it to these people too!

          Examples: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Husband, Wife,
                   S.S. teacher, preacher, maybe a young person
                   who has inspired us because of their

     D.   We need to be thankful to God for God's work in our            lives!
          1.   We need to be thankful for Salvation!
          2.   We need to be thankful for God's "working all
              things for our good."
          3.   Do we tell God thank you and show our thanks by
              our service to God?

     A.   Again, we don't only need to feel thanks, but we need
          to show it.

     B.   Ingratitude is very prevalent today.  There's a lot of         grumbling people who feel the world owes them

     C.   But Christians are to be examples of what Christ wants
          us to be not what everyone else is doing!

     D.   The leper was an example of someone who showed
          gratitude.  Also, Paul was an example of gratitude; in
          his letters, he always said things like, "I thank
          my God for you."  He told the people;  he           
          didn't just feel gratitude.

     E.   What kind of example are we?  Do we need to ask Christ
          to help us to be more grateful this morning?

                       Invitational Hymn

Monday, October 16, 2017

Newsletter Article for November, 2017


The Maple in our front yard always looses its leaves early and is doing it once again. I’ve already been having to sweep leaves out of our garage.  We are in that season of change from Summer to Winter!  Paul speaks about change; in Romans 12:1&2 (NRSV), he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Be transformed; that is to be changed!  It is a process of change like the caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly!  As Christians, we are in that process of change!  God is not finished with us yet!  We are becoming the beautiful person that God wants us to be!  We are learning to love fully as God has loved us, not as the world loves, but as God loves!  That is what John Wesley was talking about when he spoke of moving on to perfection.  He was speaking of being perfected in God’s love, to learn to love as God loves.  Being a Christian is not so much a set of does and don’ts as it is learning to love as God loves and to live the way we do because of that love.  Methodist people are known as people of grace and love.  Let’s embrace that identity and make the best of it as we reach out in our community in love; therein, we will find our greatest success in ministry in Marble Hill and in our world.  The world needs to see the Love of God more than ever; the world longs to see the Love of God!  It is a beautiful season, and it is a beautiful thing that God is doing in each of our lives!  Share the love so that others will know that God loves them too!   People want to be a part of something where they can feel this kind of love!

November is the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is more and more getting lost in the secularization of Christmas.  It is a very special time of giving thanks!  As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to say thank you to the one from whom all good things come!  Let’s thank God by word and deed!  My prayer is that you will Catch the Spirit and invite others to come and join us as we experience the Grace and Love of God together at Marble Hill UMC!

                                                                                                            God Bless you!

                                                                                                            Pastor Mike

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pastor's Report


Marble Hill UMC
Meeting at New McKendree UMC (South Campus) at 2 p.m.
South East District Superintendent Rev. Fred Leist

Nov. 15, 2015


Mike Hargraves

We are still enjoying being here at Marble Hill UMC! Marble Hill UMC is a good church. Marble Hill has a history of paying their district and Conference apportionments in full, and we are on track to do it again this year. This is in part because Marble Hill is a missional church who sees the importance of paying their apportionments as a way of fulfilling Christ’s commission to go into all the world with the gospel. By paying their apportionments, they take part in the connectional ministry of the church in fulfilling the great commission. This missional identity continues in the way that Marble Hill ministers to the community. They see themselves as existing to serve their community, so at the Marble Hill church, many community things happen throughout the week: PEPP (Positive Education Parenting Program), Relay for Life meetings, Red Cross Blood Drives, County Extension Office meetings, Fire Department training, City Meeting for Missouri Rural Waste Water, Hunter Education Classes, Optimist Club meetings, many community baby and wedding showers, and funeral bereavement dinners for people inside and outside of the church. The Marble Hill church sees all of these things as ways to be in the community and offer Christ!

We continue to work on our “Marble Hill Growth plans for 2013 and forward.” This plan provides us with a vision and a goal to shoot for. Some of the highlights of what we have done this year toward these goals are as follows. We continue to work on our hospitality. We have had several first time visitors continue to come and make Marble Hill their church home. One of our members has recently taken on the hospitality/refreshment table as her personal ministry and is doing some great things with it. Our Nursery and Children’s Church ministries have undergone some changes. A couple ladies have taken on the ministry of the Children’s Church, one takes a month then the other takes a month. They are trying to make it more like a Children’s worship time, and they are trying to bring some continuity to this ministry. The Nursery continues to be served by volunteers. We have had a couple more people Safe Sanctuary certified this year to help with these Children’s ministries! A Care Team has been developed to help care for our shut-ins; several folks are calling or visiting our shut-ins, one of which is a retired pastor who has made Marble Hill his home church. It is good to have these resources in the church. The youth went on a mission trip to Sikeston to box up food at the Sikeston Food Bank this year. A trailer has been donated by one of our members to use for emergency response and some work has been done toward stocking it. Some work has been done toward developing a new directory, but this has been put on hold since our county is in the process of getting new 911 addresses. We have three young people who have started leading our Contemporary Song of Praise at the beginning of the service. This has really helped to enrich our worship and help people to participate in this song of praise, making the worship of our awesome God more passionate. There has even been some work toward looking into building the new addition mentioned in Phase IV of our growth plan, but for now that has been tabled until we can grow some more. The people of Marble Hill are eagerly working toward the mission of the church and God’s Kingdom! They are a good group of people! That growth plan is attached to this report!

Marble Hill has a website that one of our young people helped to set up, We have been doing some work to keep it updated and information posted on it about upcoming activities. During this year, someone logged unto it in Utah who used to live in the Marble Hill area. She saw what we were doing with youth in the area and contacted us by an email she found on the site. Since then, she has significantly been supporting our youth ministry on a monthly basis.
Marble Hill’s worship takes place at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday morning. Marble Hill has blended worship with elements of contemporary as well as traditional to meet the needs of all people in our geographic area. The people really begin to gather at about 9 a.m. for a time of fellowship around the hospitality table before Sunday School. The laity take an active part in worship: Marble Hill has a choir that leads us in traditional music with excellence. The choir has experienced some growth; we’ve had one lady move back and join the choir who sings and helps out with the organ as needed. Our Tech team includes a couple of very committed youth! Marble Hill is blessed with musical talent and several people share specials during worship; we have even discovered some new talent this past year! Praise God! Laity lead the Children’s time each week; after which, the children are dismissed to the nursery or Children’s Church which is also served by our laity. Marble Hill endeavors to offer passionate worship where people can encounter God and find their place in the Kingdom of God.

As of the writing of this report, the average attendance since this time last year at Marble Hill is 96 which is down from the 104 reported last year, but we have had some severe sickness in the church this year, and when you look at those who are missing with that consideration and add back those affected by that, you realize we have still grown. There are still people here who were not here last year. I believe that average may increase before the end of the year since many of those folks are back with us. The average attendance for 2013 was 85. We have had a total of 2 professions of faith who joined the church since the first of the year! Praise God! Marble Hill is alive and well, and moving forward for Christ, striving to make a positive difference in our community and the world. Marble Hill participated in Serve again this year with around 50 something taking part in doing service for our community in such ways as a mobile food pantry on our church parking lot, soup and food taken to the elderly and less fortunate, visits in the nursing home by our children’s group, highway and community clean up, and other work projects in the community. Marble Hill is a working church who takes seriously the Wesleyan emphasis on doing something because of your faith! Marble Hill is made up of people of just about any age, from many faith traditions. Marble Hill is really a regional church, having people come as far as Jackson, Patton, and the surrounding areas to worship here!

Marble Hill actively supports many local mission projects. Marble Hill actively supports The Amen Center, a local shelter with the mission of providing a place for people who are trying to help themselves get back on their feet. The Amen Center is housed in an old school building near a neighboring town. Besides supporting the Amen Center financially, folks from Marble Hill went to the Amen center to help paint and fix the property up at its beginning. Marble Hill also supports the local food pantry. Marble Hill sent an increase in food boxes, Hygiene kits, Dental kits, and cash donations to the Festival of Sharing this year! Again, Marble Hill has a heart for mission! Marble Hill UMC is one of the main churches people turn to for help in times of need because Marble Hill has a Benevolence fund and is known as a church who cares and who will help! That is not a bad way to be known!

The United Methodist Men at Marble Hill are preparing for their Annual Fish Supper. It is a big deal and many participate to make it happen. It is a time when I get to meet and invite several people to come and be a part of the church. It is a real good opportunity to get the church into the community! We are again planning for our annual Trunk or Treat. Again, it is a great opportunity to invite people to church and for people to receive information about the church in their treat bags! Marble Hill church had an Advent walk-through and for the first time in several years the Easter Passion Play production on the church grounds. Marble Hill uses all of these events as bridge events between the community and the church. For many, this may be their first exposure to the church. It is my job to work the crowd and meet people. This is another example of how the Marble Hill church is in the community and the community is in the church. There are many other ways, some of which I have surely missed, that Marble Hill is in the community, but hopefully, this is enough to convey the idea of just how vital a ministry the Marble Hill church offers in the Southeast district of Missouri.

Besides being in the community, Marble Hill also supports several missions beyond our community. Marble Hill church is in mission in Africa. Marble Hill has a long history of supporting “Heart of Africa.” Marble Hill supports this mission financially but has also sent people personally to be a part of this mission work in Africa. Marble Hill has supported Gideons International, Mozambique flooding, the PET project, Ferguson Church, Haiti Clean Water Project, Operation Christmas Child, and Heifer international this year. Marble Hill regularly sends out mission teams; one of the plans on the above mentioned growth plan is to prepare an emergency response trailer. Keep up the good work Marble Hill Church as you continue to make disciples in the uttermost parts of the world!

Marble Hill offers several faith building opportunities as well. Marble Hill offers Sunday School classes for all ages. We have four adult Sunday School classes and 4 children’s and youth classes. There are small group Bible Studies that take place from time to time. We have a youth group that meets each Wednesday night called “EPIC” to offer a short lesson, food, and fellowship. We also have a younger children’s group that meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings called “JAMS” to offer the same to our children. JAMS has just undergone some changes with new people stepping up to lead this ministry. We have a good group of very creative children and youth leaders! We have a few laity who lead small group Bible Studies from time to time, and I lead Methodist 101 as needed.

My hope in providing this report is that those who read it will get a better sense of the vital ministry of the Marble United Methodist Church in a way that cannot always be detected when looking at stats. This is not a complete report of all the ways Marble has done ministry this year but is meant to celebrate some of the highlights of the year and to give the reader a flavor of the Marble Hill church. Marble Hill is one of a few congregations who are really making a difference in our world today, and I think that is worth celebrating! May God Bless you as we serve together!      

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thank you from your Pastor!

Thank you for your support of all the ministries of Marble Hill UMC. Thank you for your generous support of our monthly missions like Rainbow Network and the Christmas Shoe Boxes above and beyond your tithes and offerings to the church.

Your regular tithes and offerings support the behind the scenes but expected ministries and everyday functions of the church. Your regular tithes and offerings:

  1. Pay the staff to have a church office that you can come to for ministry needs throughout the week, and as a resource for much of what happens in the church.
  2. Provide for a pastor that can minister to you and lead the church in reaching out into the community.
  3. Insure that when you come into the church and flip a switch the lights come on and the ac/heat is there for your comfort as well.
  4. When you turn on a faucet the water flows.
  5. There is ample parking for members and visitors.
  6. The grass is mowed and the place is kept looking nice for visitors as well as regulars.
  7. Pay for the song books you use, the computers we use, the Sunday school literature that you use!
  8. Pay for a janitor to do some of the clean up for us as our building is used for ministry.
  9. Pay for general upkeep up our facility so that it is an attractive place for visitors and from which to do ministry.
  10. Pay for some of the administrative costs, building costs, and misc costs of doing much of the ministry we do in the community to provide a spiritual home for our community (as our mission statement says).

We don't talk about all these rather hidden costs much of the time, but your support makes all this happen every day and every week. Thank you for your support of all the ministries of our church. It is nice, as your pastor, to not have to be standing up here begging for money to do the ministry of the church!

Pastor Mike

Monday, October 5, 2015

From the blogger!

I offer these written outlines as versions of my sermons I do in the church where I serve at Marble Hill UMC.  My hope is that people who miss in attendance might be able to engage in the Lord through reading these.  I also offer them to you who may not ever attend Marble Hill UMC because of distance to the church or other reasons as an extended ministry of the church in the hope that they might touch you with the Love of God as well. I would like to offer a word of explanation. Sometimes the page set up and formatting is off; well, maybe most the time.  That is because, when I copy and past from my word processor programs, the formatting does not always transfer well.  I have found that to be a big job to go through and fix, so I usually do not.   Just read line by line and bear with me;  I think you will get the point.  May God bless you as you follow my blog!

                                                                                                   Pastor Mike

P.S.  You'll also find newsletter articles and other misc. entries I choose to post here from time to time.