Favorite Verses

1. John 3:16

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

3. Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...

4. 2nd Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnes...

5. Matthew 11:28

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan232019

February

From the Pastor's Desk:

At their Annual Congregational Meeting (January 27, 2019), the First Presbyterian Church of Mattoon was excited to present a ministry theme for 2019: “All In,” which was approved by the Ses-sion back in November of 2018. Those two words will provide some mission focus in the coming year.
“All In” means two things, primarily. First of all, it is a reminder to the church that we are to be “ALL IN” for God - body, mind, and spirit. We are living offerings, and each day God desires that we offer all of ourselves to Him - even our questions and sins and fears and wildest dreams. Secondly, it is a challenge to all the minister members of the church to get involved in a deeper way in the life of the church this coming year. We desire for ALL to be INVOLVED, whether that’s sharing in prayer or Bible fellow-ships between Sundays, engaging in our programs, committees, missions, or activities beyond worship services on Sunday morn-ing. In order for the church to carry out its mission of making dis-ciples more effectively, we need all hands on deck. As Jesus said, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Our own Brandon Barta has designed a logo for us to put on our church publications (and maybe T-shirts?) this year as another way for us to keep our mission on our minds. 
May God inspire you to consider ways of following Jesus faithful-ly this year and in every year to come. Until He returns! To God be the glory!
In Christ’s love,
Pastor Matthew

Friday
Dec282018

January

From the Pastor's Desk:

“Jesus Tries to Talk People Out of Following Him”
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” -Luke 14:25-27.
Recently, I’ve enjoyed meeting with a number of wonderful people who wish to (and have) become members here at First Presbyterian Church in Mattoon. When speaking of the reasons they feel called to join FPC, they consistently speak of the warm spirit of fellowship in worship and the church’s obvious love for mission and for people. Church, your Christ-empowered hospitality is winsome. God is doing wonderful things through us.
In Jesus’ day, too, the evident love and presence of God drew a crowd. People recognized God’s Spirit in Jesus and wanted to be around Him. This, I’m sure, delighted Jesus and the disciples. After all, Jesus came to earth in order to save people and draw them back to God.

However, Jesus needed to make sure that people really wanted to become His disciples, not just His fans. And so we have passages like the one above from the gospel of Luke, in which Jesus says hard, challenging (awful?) words. “If you want to be my disciple, you have to be willing to put me above everything else.”
Talk about high enrollment costs! “Hate” your Dad and Mom, your spouse and kids, your brothers and sisters, and your own life? Ouch. David Platt, Christian pastor and author of the book Radical, commented that Jesus seems to be talking people OUT of following Him.
Now, let me emphasize that Jesus isn’t advocating for hatred. Don’t get thrown by this particular use of the word “hate” in that passage above. Jesus is clearly a proponent of love (there are countless passages which emphasize that). Jesus is in no way justifying cruelty to family members or to yourself. The disciples understood this.
But the Lord IS saying that following Him must come first. If there should arise a decision between either following Jesus or pleasing people, the disciple is to choose Jesus.
But, seriously, Jesus, why are you being so mean and so demanding?
Here, I believe, is the answer: Only that which is placed under the Lordship of Jesus is redeemed. The early church preached that there is no other Name (other than the Name of Jesus) by which humanity is saved.”
If we don’t put our valuables in the bank, they can not be protected by the bank. In the same way, if we do not place ourselves and our relationships and all the gifts we’ve been given under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they are not sanctified. Rather than keeping us close to Jesus, they are liable to take us away from Him.
Remember that Jesus also said: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If Jesus is not our greatest treasure, than we are trusting in something else to save us. Jesus asks us through these Scriptures: “Is that wise?”  Jesus is simply being up front about the cost of truly seeking Him first. It won’t always be comfortable. It will mean challenges and trials and difficulties. But it will bring rewards far greater than the world can offer.
I love it when people join our church. That fills me with such joy! Both our new members and our long-time members are such a blessing! Yet let us all remember that our first priority is being and making disciples of Jesus, not just adding to the active membership roll.
God bless you all, and let’s have a truly blessed and God-honoring 2019. May Jesus use FPC to expand His Kingdom, and make committed followers of Jesus Christ!

Yours in Christ’s love, Pastor Matthew

Wednesday
Nov282018

December

From the Pastor's Desk:

There are things we really love about December. It can be fun to decorate the house, bake the cookies,
send the cards, play the music, and buy the presents. But, of course, these things are mainly window
dressing around the primary scene - the baby Immanuel in a manger.
This Advent season, we as a church are going to talk about what it means for us as Christians to celebrate
the birth of our Lord Jesus. And don’t worry: I’m not going to be critical about how people celebrate the
holidays. I’m only offering an invitation to the weary to enjoy the spiritual blessings God offers through the
Christmas story.
We Christians may miss out on the gifts of Advent and the joy of preparing more room for God in our
lives. We get caught up in many things - but are we truly worshipping Jesus So for 4 weeks, we are going
to focus on 4 things:
1. WORSHIP FULLY - we want Jesus to mean more to us by the end of the month than He does right
now. We want to reach 2019 knowing that we ended 2018 praising our awesome God.
2. SPEND LESS - we don’t want to go into debt to say “I love you” with gifts. Rather, we want to give the
gift of our PRESENCE, not just PRESENTS. You don’t need a credit card to show the people in your life
that you treasure them. And instead of spending so much money on trinkets that won’t last, why not invest
in ministries that can truly change the world?
3. GIVE MORE - not material things, but “heart things.” This can be a season for offering our words, our
time, our hands, and our souls to God and others.
4. LOVE ALL - especially those people who are forgotten or marginalized. After all, Jesus came as a poor
child in a backwards town to unimpressive parents. To understand the gospel is to treat all people as God
treats us - with acceptance and great love.
Rather than dreading the arrival of Christmas, won’t it be nice to celebrate Jesus and be intentional in our
relationships? Take that friend out for coffee! Rather than buy a gift, make time or give of your talents -
from your heart. December doesn’t need to stress us out. In fact, God intends for this season to be a gift.
“Unto you a child is born. To you a Son is given.” And one of His many names is “Prince of Peace.” May
the Peace of Christmas be with you. Let’s conspire to make this Advent different.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew

Wednesday
Oct312018

November

From the Pastor's Desk:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s posses-sion—to the praise of his glory.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
-Ephesians 1:13-17 (NRSV)
To know Christ and to make Him known - this is at the heart of the church’s mission and ministry. After all, why call ourselves “Christian” if we are not centered in the life, death, and ministry of Je-sus Christ? What makes our faith unique among the religions of the world is that at the heart of our faith is a relationship - a personal friendship with the Word - the author of life.
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) He didn’t say, “I’ll TEACH you the way, the truth, and the life,” He said “I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” Truth is found in rela-tionship with Jesus, not just in a book.
When the apostle Paul wrote his letter (we call it “Ephesians”) to the church two millennia ago, he was expressing his desires in a prayer for the church - that they would rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit (a “deposit” guaranteeing their inheritance of eternal life) and that they would be given wis-dom and revelation SO THEY COULD KNOW CHRIST BETTER.
The more our relationship with Jesus deepens, the more our own desires will change. No more will we be striving to be “living out our religious principles,” we will be joyfully growing more alike in character and passion to our best friend and Savior Jesus.
See the difference? One method (the religious method) is “ME-focused,” concentrating on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. The other method is love-based, and relationship-focused. The glory and focus is on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of faith.
As a pastor, what I want you to know is just how good and wonderful Jesus is. I want you to be in a deep and deepening relationship with the Word - the Word who became flesh. As that relation-ship develops, it enriches ALL your other relationships - personal and professional. And then you discover your priorities changing - and your love confirmed by charitable actions.
We will make a difference. The church has power and agency to transform the world. But ONLY inasmuch as it is connected to its source - Jesus Christ.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Amen. Oh church, I pray that you will know Jesus even better by the end of this month than you do right now, at the beginning of November.
Yours in Christ’s love,
Pastor Matthew

Wednesday
Aug292018

September

From the Pastor's Desk:

MARION MEDICAL MISSION - 2018
What happens when followers of Jesus Christ in Africa and in North America unite in a mission to provide clean water to hundreds of thousands of men, wom-en, and children living in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and countless villages in that area? God is glorified. The church rejoices. Lives are saved.
Haven’t you heard of this ministry? The following definition comes directly from the official website: “Marion Medical Mission is an ecumenical, Christian, front-line, hands-on, volunteer, non-profit organization that responds to Christ’s call to serve by working hand in hand with God’s people in Africa. We show the love of Christ through projects that directly impact the African people, stressing self-help and sustainability.”
I will be heading to Africa to witness this first-hand. I am on “Team One,” a group of about 20 people from all around this country who will be there for three weeks (September 16 - October 6). We will help transport materials to the installation sites, document the well locations, and lead a well dedication service to the glory of God. Team Two will be overseas for the following three weeks. Pray for this mission! This is my first time - pray for me! I expect to be humbled by God’s love through God’s people.
For over 30 years, this God-inspired ministry has been doing what is humanly impossible. Over 4 million people have received clean water in the name of Je-sus. The cost per well has come down to about $400 as the construction meth-ods have become ever more efficient. 100% of all donated money goes to well construction, as volunteers pay their own expenses (or, in my case, have church-es backing them).
Thank you God, for this mission. Thank God for giving director Tom Logan this vision back in 1985. Thank God for the church in Africa. Thank you for taking the time to read about MMM.
For more information about this God-honoring and people-empowering ministry, visit www.mmmwater.org.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew