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."

 

 

 

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.

Wednesday
Apr262017

May

From the Pastor's Desk:

Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle
“Born into Darkness”
Scripture: John 9: 1-41

All of us are born into on darkness. Ever since the fall, we have been prey to sinful urges and a lack of healthy vision. Not all of us are physically impaired, but none of us see things as they truly are. We deceive ourselves and others through appearances. But, whether we like to admit it or not, we cannot get by on our own because we don’t know where we’re going.
In this passage from John's gospel, we read the story of Jesus and the man born blind. Notice that as the blind man makes his case before the Pharisees after the healing has taken place, he is not boasting about his own ingenuity or worthiness. Rather, he is testifying boldly about Jesus Christ.
There is quite a contrast between the man who had been blind and the Pharisees. The man who had been blind is simply telling the truth; grateful for the miracle that Jesus performed. The Pharisees, on the other hand, criticize the man, and assert their own authority. “YOU were steeped in sin at birth! How dare YOU lecture US!”
Of course, by human standards, the Pharisees are right. They are the religious leaders, they are the teachers of Israel. They have the credentials, and this formerly blind man doesn’t. It looks like supreme arrogance to tell such learned men that they’re wrong. But God knows, they were.
A humble heart recognizes its dependence on God, and understands that only God can give us back proper vision. Jesus makes the point clearly. “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
The truth is, all of us are a mess without Him. We tend to be ugly towards others, we tend to focus on ourselves, and are often consumed by our own quest for power and satisfaction. There is not one of us who deserves the love of God. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “there is no one righteous, not one.”
If we somehow deserved mercy, it would not truly be mercy, would it? If we could somehow prove that we were completely innocent, free from guilt, pardon would be a simple matter of justice. But, as Jesus reminds us today, all are blind. The saving grace is that some realize they are helpless and therefore can be healed.  Like that blind man long ago.  And like us.
Yours in Christ,
Matthew

 

 

Saturday
Apr012017

April

From the Pastor's Desk:

“Our Easter Story”

A while ago, while at home playing proud father to Zachary, I took the opportunity to catch up on some leadership training DVDs that had been collecting dust in my office. The title of the DVD series was “Unleashed for the Gospel,” and its theme was how a deeper appreciation for the good news of Jesus Christ naturally results in spiritual maturity.
We don’t grow more and more into the likeness of Christ by human effort alone (somehow willing ourselves to change). In fact, to attempt to keep the Law of God through manipulation or fear or sheer force of will generally leads to exhaustion and despair. We could hear (or I could preach) thousands of sermons about morality without finding our souls or churches becoming much different.
However, what does seem to result in genuine change is allowing one’s mind and soul to be saturated by the immeasurable love of God, and the astonishing grace on display at the cross. Consider the character of God, and let Him inspire You.  Don’t merely despair under the requirements of the Law and be overwhelmed. The gospel was preached not just to unbelievers, but was to be continually proclaimed to believers as well. Why? Because unless we hear it and really let it soak in, we will end up with a legalistic form of Christianity that is just another burden to endure. Rather than being water that brings life, it will feel like one more impossible task on the “to do” list.
So, hear it anew: Not based on anything we have done, but because He is good and He loves us perfectly, Jesus has become our righteousness. He took the filth from us, and gave us His perfect life so that we can stand before God without fear of punishment. Believe that God loves you that much - trust that Jesus is in fact all you need - and you shall live!
Let that sink in, because it’s true. You may not always feel loved, but you definitely are. You may not see Jesus now, but you will. And though He has much to say and good lessons to teach, with each utterance comes His earnest whisper, “I love you.” That’s the essence of the gospel. That’s our Easter story.
-Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle