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
May292019

June

From the Pastor's Desk:

IT was a gorgeous, clear summer night. On the roof of the observatory where the telescopes for stargazing were set up, some colleagues and I had a heart-stopping view of the heavens, speckled with stars and planets and the millions (billions?) of galaxies that form this incredible universe we inhabit.
In the middle of Nebraska (not far from Hastings College where the pastor’s conference was being hosted), there is not much light pollution or other distractions to cloud one’s vision. For those of us gathered that night in 2012, it was an act of worship simply looking up into that vast canopy of unspeakable wonder.
“Heaven is my throne,” says God, “and the earth is my footstool.”
In light of such a dwelling, how could we ever offer God a temple or a church worthy of Him? Can any human architect design a building that competes with the wildness and wonder of space, or design a footstool as exquisite as this precious planet we call home? There are some amazing cathedrals in this world, but none have a roof so high as the one God created, or have such elaborate furnishings as what this earth provides.
That said, there IS a temple that God would choose to dwell in - and one we can provide for God. Our souls. Our hearts. Our minds. Consider the astonishing news that God longs to dwell within US; that of all the places available to God, WE are the sanctuary God desires to renovate and live within.
So - will we offer the temple of our bodies completely to God, or are we still holding onto the keys and asking that God schedule a visit when it’s convenient? Trust me - the temple is lonely without the company of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The heart is lonely without the fellowship of Christ’s church. It’s time to open all the doors, and say “Holy Spirit, please come and make Your home in me. Let me be Your resting place, as You are mine.” Amen!
In His grip,
Pastor Matthew

Thursday
Apr252019

May

From the Pastor's Desk:

Suggested Scripture Reading: Romans chapter 6
When I was going to school in Ames, Iowa (Go Iowa State Cyclones!), I had a very religious Mormon friend, whom I took with me to the church I attended one Sunday. The sermon was about grace, and particularly focused on how we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. After worship, my friend was upset about the message. He wondered how the sermon would motivate anyone to good works if God loved them no matter what they did.
One of the objections people like my friend have had to the concept of freely given grace is that it could be misused to justify immoral behavior. After all, if God gives grace when people sin, why not sin more so God can grant more grace?
The apostle Paul brings up that very topic in his letter to the Romans.. Paul poses the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase?” He then proceeds to answer the question in an unexpected way. Rather than go on about how bad sin is, or how misguided we are to beg the question, he responds in verse 2 by saying, “we died to sin - how can we live in it any longer?”
Paul brings up a supernatural reality - that the believer has died to sin. In this letter, Paul doesn’t say “you should try not to sin,” but rather “you are no longer a slave to sin.” This is a much different way of thinking about what God had done in our lives than some of us may be used to. As we see in this passage, God has given us a new identity.
I should emphasize, however, that this does not mean Christians will no longer sin or need to repent. If we claim to be sinless, we are lying. But this passage does say that sin no longer defines us. When we sin, we are not acting in accordance with who we have become in Christ, but rather behaving according to the habits of the “old self.” In verse 6, we are reminded that the shadow-self - the sinner - has been done away with, and we are no longer slaves to sin.
When we sin, we may be tempted to despair and think, “well, that’s just who I am.” But that mentality ignores the powerful work of God that has taken place within us. Because that is no longer who we are. We are living in a new reality - the reality of Christ’s salvation. God has freed us and changed us.
Being claimed by God in baptism is more than being drafted onto a team or enlisted into service. We are fundamentally different. The Scriptures tell us that in Christ, we are a new creation. For the one who has been saved, living in sin would be analogous to trying to live underwater or trying to breathe dirt. You can’t do it. The Spirit of Christ within you won’t allow it.
This change is not anything we have accomplished - it’s not anything we could have done on our own. We don’t boast in ourselves. We boast in a God who makes all things new.
So does this teaching gives us a license to sin? The sinner would seek to remain in sin - the sinner would be helpless to do otherwise. But the Christian seeks after God - the Christian has the license to love. And in Christ, we discover that we now have a freedom we didn’t used to have - and that is the freedom not to sin.
In His Grip,
Matthew

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