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."

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct032017

October

From the Pastor's Desk:

“Addict Yourselves to No Party”
by the Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle


“You were never in your lives in so critical a situation as you are at this time. It is your part to be peacemakers, to be loving and tender to all, but to addict yourselves to no party.” - John Wesley
Those words were written by the founder of the Methodist church in the late 18th Century. He was writing to preachers in America and in England in context of the American Revolution. He was giv-ing advice as to how Christians should conduct themselves in light of all the societal upheaval.
His words are astonishingly relevant. Particularly I’m impressed by the seemingly prophetic phrase “addict yourselves to no party.” Because I think that many of us have become addicted to our par-ties. We can’t get enough news - so long as its from our preferred source - and so long as it paints “the opposition party” in ugly colors.
The party we are to be concerned with above all is Jesus. And not “Republican Jesus” or “Democrat Jesus” or “Independent Jesus” or any other “Adjective Jesus.” Because let’s be honest here: most of us tend to follow the “Always Agrees with Me Jesus.” Just take a minute and ask yourself: “Is the Jesus I follow challenging me to think or to act differently, or am I following a Jesus made in my own image, who always agrees with my opinions?”
In case we haven’t noticed, we live in a world in serious need of peacemakers. Who is going to step up, if not the church that claims to follow the “Prince of Peace” who said: “Blessed are the peacemakers”? And while it’s true that Jesus said His Way would inevitably cause division in our world of swords, He promised His people the Spirit of peace.
It seems especially important that we who bear His Name serve with humility, and model a better way for our culture rather than passively reflect it. It’s too easy to get caught up in the anger and the hype. It’s far better to ask for more of God’s Spirit, and refresh the soul with the Good News.
I’m not saying that there aren’t causes worth fighting for and times to speak up. But as we do so, it’s important to check our addictions against the Spirit of Jesus. (“Consider the log in your own eye!”) And always remember: Jesus’ aim is not annihilation, but reconciliation. “The Son of God came - not to condemn the world - but to save it.”
May Jesus’ cause be our cause. Lift high the cross - where God’s justice and mercy meet. For one day, there will be only one party - and it will be the wedding party between Jesus and His church.

In His grip,
Matthew

Tuesday
Aug292017

September

Fom the Pastor's Desk:

“Words with Friends”
by Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle


Words are powerful. In the first chapter of Genesis (and at the beginning of John’s gospel), it is written that God created all things through His Word. God said “Let there be,” and there was. And ever since, even from human mouths, words have a remarkable capacity to create and restore. We can tell beautiful stories and sup-port one another.
These days, we have so many ways to put words out there. We speak, call, text, e-mail, tweet, share, forward, post, rally, write, etc. This can be a good thing. The Scriptures tell us that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). If we are daily giving our hearts to Christ, our speech will inevitably reflect God’s heart.
But our words can also harm and destroy. We find it difficult to heed the Biblical admonition: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). In the heat of the moment, we can shoot off our mouths or type out that comment without considering how our words might misrepresent Jesus and hinder God’s Spirit.
Jesus’ brother James wrote a scathing rebuke to our sinful misuse of words. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human be-ings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My bothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).
Words also have the important power of correcting us, and rebuking our miscon-ceptions. Who in your life can tell you what you don’t want to hear… but what you most need to hear? Is this not the prophetic function of God’s Word? Is that not an important part of Christian discipleship?
I remember what Paul said to his friend Timothy: “The time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
We must avoid living in an echo chamber of people who will only agree with us. As we speak words of encouragement and support, let us also be a community that can speak, as the hymn says, “words of challenge, said with care.”
God grant us the maturity to have respectful disagreements, based in a love for Christ and the desire to build heaven’s Kingdom. It’s a crazy world. May our words be more like the powerful words of Christ. Sane, wholesome, creative, challenging, and beautiful.

Monday
Jul312017

August

From the Pastor's Desk:

“AN OUTSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE” - Rev. Matthew Froeschle
So my family and I have been living here in Mattoon for nearly three years now. Compared to the average resident, that’s a fairly short amount of time. So peo-ple will sometimes ask me how I’ve settled in. Do I like it here?  When I get this question from members of my church family, I (perhaps arrogant-ly) assume that part of the query has to do about whether or not I’m planning to remain at FPC. For the record: Yes. I believe God led me and my family here, and I hope to spend the rest of my ministry here - provided I am not a liability to the church. I am VERY blessed.
But, aside from the church community, what about the town? Well, I’ve spend most of my life in or near the Quad Cities, so I can get pretty nostalgic about east Iowa. My hometown, Bettendorf, is a growing community blessed with a LOT of resources. Plus, my parents are there, and I really miss them.
Mattoon doesn’t seem to have as many resources - or as many things to do - as there were in the QC. Many of the people who grew up in this town have moved elsewhere after graduating, on to larger cities. Here, there is a sense that our “glory days” are behind us, not in front of us. We USED TO have a big Bagel Fest - we USED TO have a busy mall - we USED TO have great parades and festivals. There is a depression or apathy that threatens to paralyze this town. There seems to be a big divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” (this is not unique to Mattoon) - maybe even a general lack of opportunities to connect with other people.
We are ripe for renewal - for a new work of God. The gospel reminds us that we are not loved on the basis of merit or our “likability," but on the basis of God’s in-credible compassion for the “down-and-out.” I know personally how crippling it can be when we focus on our “miserable” situation rather than setting our eyes on the God who died to give us life. I am confident in God’s ability to work through men and women to do amazing things - to transform individual lives and even the landscape of an entire community.
And, in case I’ve been way too pessimistic (I probably have been), I need to say that there are a LOT of really good things happening here that you may not find elsewhere. There are inspiring people committed to serving selflessly; who give and give and give to this community. Most folk here are pretty down to earth and hospitable. Already there is a potent seed of positive change at work.
There is new development - new investments - and a great deal of hope when you look for it. This makes me feel very humble and feeling very blessed to live here. Plus - this is definitely a baseball town, and I love baseball!
For now (and hopefully for years), this is our earthly home. We would do well to look honestly at what we have and what we lack as a community, and how God may work through us to make this a better place for everyone to live in. Like every community, we have unique talents and opportunities and challenges. Can we talk and work together to make Mattoon look and feel more like the Kingdom of God? According to Je-sus, that’s our mission.
In God’s grip,
Pastor Matthew
P.S. - I almost forgot to mention a big plus - that sometimes this town smells like freshly baked blueberry ba-gels, especially in the west side where we live. More of that, please!

Thursday
Jun292017

July

From the Pastor’s Desk
 
“The City with No Church”
-Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. -Revelation 21:22-23 (NIV)
Once upon a time, an old Christian man looked around at the world and at the church that he had helped to establish, and noticed that everything seemed to be falling apart. The gospel he had spent a lifetime preaching was seemingly being drowned out by false teachings, and the fellowship of believers he loved was wounded daily by immorality from within and persecution from without.
Then, one night, God gave him a vision of the future. With images, poetry, and Scriptures, God sang beautiful promises to him. It was so incredible, that he quickly wrote it all down. And so we have the book of Revelation, written by John, that youngest of Jesus’ 12 disciples. And its message was for him and for us: “Your work and the ministry of the church has not been in vain. Jesus IS the Christ, and one day His Kingdom will come.”
I know that Revelation strikes us as a strange and frightening book. It was written in strange and frightening times. But its message is one of hope written to a people undergoing horrific trials. And one of the most beautiful things in it is the picture of the Holy City (a shining place where every tear is wiped away).
What may be shocking to us “church folk” as we read this passage from Revelation 21 about the new Jerusalem is the clear omission of a Temple or a Church in the city that God is building. Why does John, and the Holy Spirit, specifically point that out (Revelation 21:22)? No church? (Hooray! Heaven won’t be boring! But wait! Oh no! What will the clergy do?)
This seeming omission leads us to an important truth. The church’s mission is to make cities that no longer need churches. The clergy’s mission is the same - to preach and teach so that you won’t and don’t need clergy.  For the present, God does call men and women to serve in the institutional church. The church is to be a sanctuary for worship and a training place for discipleship and service. But think about it - sanctuaries and schools and service institutions are all concessions to the brokenness of our current world. Those institutions wouldn’t be necessary in a holy kingdom.
Jesus Christ does not live within the walls of a church or temple (He does visit sometimes). Jesus lives in the streets and in the wild. Jesus is not the property of the church, nor of any institution. It’s the other way around. We belong to Him.
Let’s be very clear. Our first loyalty is to Christ, not the church. The church can be a good institution - perhaps even great at times. But our desire is for the unleashing of the Holy Spirit - not for the bottling up and selling of Him. That’s a terrible “business” model, of course. But we churches aren’t a business. Our collective mission isn’t institutional survival. We are to be agents of transformation in our community. Together, we must all boast about Christ, not just our own little fellowships.
And yes, sometimes we may look around, as John did, and feel overwhelmed by the decay around us. But let us also remember the main theme of his revelation: the hope that Jesus has and will overcome the world. He’s so cool!
In His grip,
Thursday
May252017

June

From the Pastor's Desk:

“The Difficulty of Prayer”
by Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle
A few weeks back, I spoke with the children of our church during worship about the primacy of prayer. I shared with them the story of how once upon a time I set off in my car to make a delivery without first making sure I knew where I was going. As a result, I ended up in Wisconsin when I was supposed to be in southern Iowa. “We should talk to God first, before going about our business,” I concluded, “otherwise we may end up heading in the wrong direction.”
They got the message. “Prayer is very important.” But there’s a problem: Prayer isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes prayer may feel to us like one more unpleasant burden laid upon us by a demanding God. How can we find time and energy to focus on the unseen God? Prayer is a discipline - an exercise for which training is required. We could really use someone to motivate and teach us!
I have grown accustomed to praying publicly, because people often ask or expect me to do so. And most of the time it doesn’t bother me. But I can still find it awkward for the same reasons you would find it awkward - because I don’t know what to say - because I feel embarrassed by my “performance” - because I might stumble over words - or because it can feel unnatural.
And when I’m alone? I can find praying even harder. My mind wanders. I start thinking of other things I should be doing. Sometimes in intercessory prayer, I feel like I’m just reciting a list of names to God. Why? Doesn’t God already know who needs prayer?
And, of course, there are plenty of things to snap me out of my prayers. My cell phone “dings” with a text or an e-mail or a phone call and, like Pavlov’s dog, I’m conditioned to respond instantly to the stimuli. I take leave of the King and tap the screen.
I feel guilty that quality time with God in prayer seems to be such a low priority for me. Can you relate? I actually hope you are in a place where you can’t relate to this right now. I hope you are in a place where God feels very close and your communion with Him is sweet and intimate.  But if this is a difficult season for prayer, yet you still want to get back into a good habit, please allow me to offer a few words of encouragement.
First of all, recall that God knows how difficult it can be for us to pray. After all, Jesus was fully human, and part of the human experience is feeling isolated and being bound by our five senses. Jesus once said (from the cross): “My God, My God, why have You abandoned me?” True, Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father, but can we assume that it came easily? 
The Bible is quite clear that God is merciful and gracious. This is not an excuse to sin, but it does offer us hope when we’re struggling to obey. And because God is gracious, God has offered us a variety of means to communicate with Him. Finding it hard to pray? There are other Christians around who have written prayers and liturgies that you can borrow (you can even use old church bulletins). Let other people give you the words. The Lord Himself offered us a prayer to start with, when we’re struggling.
There is also music (Christian radio can be helpful - but any music can be an avenue, so long as you are inviting Jesus into the conversation) and poetry (like the Psalms) that can draw us into fellowship with God. Don’t limit your definition of prayer too narrowly. Quietly enjoying a sunset or a walk or a glass of tea can be a type of prayer.  Sometimes, don’t worry so much about finding the right words or the right number of words. Perhaps you can simply pick one word - for instance, JESUS - and just repeat that word as a mantra - like breathing in and out. Or maybe you’re a writer. Sometimes I have found that writing down my thoughts in a journal can be a way of communicating with God.
These are things that have helped me. But honestly, sometimes it’s just rough, and we just have to keep trying and “power through” the dry seasons.  Sometimes you’ll feel great in prayer, sometimes you won’t. But God is always there. Don’t give up. Prayer IS very important. But I wanted to be very honest and to elaborate on that message, lest we assume that prayer will always be easy.