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."

 

 

 

Thursday
Mar282019

April

From the Pastor's Desk:

“I Do It?”
One of the things I’ve noticed about toddlers is that they like to help out - but only in their way and in Case in point: when my family lived in Princeton, Iowa, I was in front of the sink one day washing dishes when I heard a small voice behind me. “Daddy, I help you clean?” I was delighted, and so I told my little Lizzie (4 years old at the time) to get a chair to stand on so she could help dry. She did. She dried three dishes. “All done,” she proudly declared (we were not even close) and hopped back down to go play. Ah. My DNA is in her. I was still charmed.
And one time when Lizzie and I went down to Princeton’s City Hall to take care of some business, Lizzie seemed eager to jump into civic service. She went right behind the desk and wanted to help AJ (the city clerk at the time) field some phone calls. However, after a minute, she was done - ready to start running other errands (or actually just to start running). I was still charmed.
Lizzie, like most toddlers, was eager to grow up and start doing the things she saw the big people doing. Of course, she needed to learn a little more stamina and perseverance. She needed to learn how to stick with a task until it’s done, not just until her mood changed.
To do what is good - to help others even when we don’t feel like it - is one way of charming our heavenly Father. And even though we will never be able to serve perfectly, or even finish the task completely, He is still charmed by our desire to grow up and be like Him.
In the gospels, we’ve read the stories of our Savior ministering to the needy, and reaching out to the lonely. May we have the eagerness sometimes demonstrated by the little ones, and ask: “Daddy - I help? I do it?”
By His Spirit, we can know the joy of helping out and growing up. After all, we are made in God’s image. God’s DNA is in us.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew

Thursday
Feb282019

March

From the Pastor's Desk:

 

THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST
Once more, we are entering the season of Lent, in which the church focuses on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Although Jesus is the world’s greatest teacher, He did not come to earth simply to give us training and information. He came to surrender His life on the cross in order to make things right between God and humanity. The cross is a complicated mystery, worthy of our reflection. The cross is at the center of the Christian’s faith.
The cross is also a stumbling block to many, and extremely offensive to our sensibilities. The God of the Universe is worthy of worship and praise. Why, then, should God’s Messiah submit to such a shameful death? In ancient times, the Romans wouldn’t speak of crucifixion in polite company, it was so shameful and embarrassing.
Perhaps we modern believers, too, tend to avoid speaking about the cross. Jesus’ blood sacrifice is difficult to explain, and we may be embarrassed to talk about the Lord’s death and resurrection. It sounds crazy.  Indeed, the early church faced the same difficulties speaking about the cross as we do. The apostle Paul acknowledges that the message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and a stumbling block to nice religious people who rightly recognize crucifixion as a ghastly inappropriate topic of conversation.
And yet it is at the cross of Jesus Christ that the power of God is poured out upon the broken human being. It is in that place of utter shame that God’s transformative love is experienced - the God who would die for His people. There, our sins and the Power of Sin are definitively beaten by the Lord who will deliver His people from slavery.
Any form of Christianity that does not take seriously the cross of Jesus Christ is not the truth as proclaimed by the disciples and apostles (at great personal cost). We have this season of Lent every year to keep us from straying too far from the tree on which our Christ hung for us. I want to help us understand it better. I want to know it better. Because I believe it is there
where we discover the saving grace of the One True God.
Have a blessed and powerful Lent, dear Church.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew

 

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