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
May252016

June

From the Pastor's Desk:
“Intentional Faith Development”

For the last few months, I’ve been using this opportunity in the newsletter to speak about the five attributes of a healthy church: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission & Service, and Extravagant Generosity (these are the important attributes identified in the book “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” by Robert Schnase). You can see from the title which one I’m writing about this month.

This is surprisingly good timing, because your Christian Education team has been talking a lot about the importance of intergenerational fellowship and intentional faith development (it’s kinda their job). They know that it’s not enough for people to feel welcome and have great weekly worship experiences at church. If a church is going to be grow, its members need to be connected with one another in intentional discipleship communities.

When I lived in Nebraska, I was invited into a small group of Christian friends that called themselves the “Tuesday Night Group.” Essentially, we were a fellowship of young adults who wanted to grow in our faith, and discovered we needed each other for strength, support, challenge, and encouragement along the way. We met weekly (guess when!) and sang together, studied Scripture together, and prayed together. They kept me sane.

Apart from our Sunday morning worship hour, where is your faith being developed? Who is sharing their Christian experience and wisdom with you - mentoring you through this life? Sure, a pastor’s sermons and good Christian books can be helpful, but what personal relationships has God placed in your life that help you in getting to know and follow Jesus better?  And who has God placed in your life that you are able to pour into - and share your faith experience with?  Without such relationships or groups, our Christian walk suffers. It doesn’t matter if they’re called small groups or youth groups or Bible studies or accountability fellowships, we need to be a part of or create spaces where we can be supported and challenged. This life is complex and difficult. How can we afford to be so isolated and alone?  Jesus commanded His friends to “go and make disciples, teaching them everything I have taught you.” Jesus commanded his disciples to develop the faith in other people. It is a fundamental mission of the church. And I pray you’ll discover the joy of receiving that kind of Christian coaching and also helping provide it for others. We don’t graduate from discipleship. At EVERY age, we need “Sunday School.”

In His grip,
Pastor Matthew

 

Thursday
Apr282016

May

From the Pastor's Desk:
“Passionate Worship”

In bishop Robert Schnase’s book (“Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations”), the author details five elements every church needs to be healthy: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission & Service, and Extravagant Generosity. This month, I wanted to talk about that second element, “Passionate Worship.”

Sometimes, we Presbyterians earn the nickname given to us by our more charismatic brothers and sisters: the “Frozen Chosen.” Let’s be honest. “Passionate” may not be the first adjective that comes to mind when describing our Sunday morning worship. I remember that as a kid in the church’s sanctuary, I mostly prayed for the service to end. To me, “worship” was enduring verse after verse of long hymns, and a seemingly endless liturgy of long prayers and speeches before I could finally go outside and play.  I don’t mean to imply that my home church was awful. It wasn’t. I was (am) immature and had (have) a lot of growing up to do. Moreover, true, passionate worship isn’t just about style. Passionate worship can happen with contemporary music led by a band, or with hymns played on the organ. Perhaps we all have much to learn when it comes to true worship.

Our culture is filled with entertainment options, and we tend to think like consumers.  Churches buy into that ideology, and market themselves. We offer our Sunday morning worship services as entertainment experiences. Our compliments and criticisms generally betray our attitudes. “The music was beautiful today, but the sermon was pretty dry.” That makes it sound as if the congregation is there only to fill the pews. We bought our ticket, and we found the show to be lacking.

But the real question for us is whether or not we were given the opportunity - and aided by the service elements - to draw close to God and tell him how much we love him. It’s not wrong to come away from worship feeling good - but that’s not what it’s all about. Excitement isn’t to be merely superficial - the excitement comes from knowing that you were offering quality worship to God - and honoring him.
Fruitful congregations are ones that practice passionate worship - and not just on Sunday mornings. The Holy Spirit is inspiring people to connect with God and praise him. People are singing not because they are “supposed to,” but because they want to. It’s true that much of the responsibility to provide an excellent worship service rests on the spiritual leaders of the church - her ruling and teaching elders. When our leaders are enthusiastic about celebrating God, that attitude spills over into the congregation. Passionate worship is
contagious.

However, we are more than spectators. Bring your whole self, not just your body, into the sanctuary. Tell us what’s helpful and what’s distracting when it comes to connecting with God here at FPC, not just what you “like” and “don’t like” about Sunday mornings. God deserves our best - and we need more than just one more hour of entertainment.

Can I hear an “Amen”?

In His grip,
Pastor Matthew

Sunday
Apr032016

April

      From the Pastor's Desk:
      “Radical Hospitality”

Almost every church claims to be friendly. Almost every church advertises itself as welcoming. A lot of churches talk about themselves as “family.” But the true test is not what a church says about itself, but what visitors actually experience when they arrive on a Sunday morning.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you showed up to some other family’s gathering? I’m extremely shy anyway - I imagine I would be really intimidated. I wouldn’t know the in-jokes. I wouldn’t know anyone’s name. I would need someone to befriend me and guide me and introduce me.  Beyond the initial niceties, if I were to continue to show up regularly, I would need to know that I was wanted and not a nuisance. I would need to know that people were willing to listen to me, that they genuinely cared about me, and that eventually they were even willing to let me work alongside them. Then I would know that the friendliness was more than just an act; that I was joyfully expected.

Right now, this feels true: FPC Mattoon is filled with a good Spirit of hospitality. This is something that YOU are doing, dear friends.  The staff and I try to lead by example, but the Holy Spirit has been working in your hearts for a long time, and even in the difficult times. God’s good work in you is the greatest resource we have to offer.

Visitors have been talking with me. On Easter, a woman told me that this is the friendliest church she has EVER visited. I have heard similar stories of how grateful visitors are that people will come up to them, welcome them, talk with them, and make them feel at home. You are doing this quite naturally - quite genuinely.  It’s not an act, not artificial. It’s fruit. To God be the glory!

Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase wrote a book titled “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” The five practices according to Robert are: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission & Service, and Extravagant Generosity.

In the coming months, I will be talking a bit about these in my monthly newsletter articles. But I wanted to celebrate the good work that is happening in connection with that first practice: Radical Hospitality.  I want to encourage us all to continue that good work. Not because the church needs new members in order to survive (survival mentality is fear-based, not love-based), but in order to help others find a place of belonging. FPC has something special and unique to offer, while God allows us to continue this ministry in His Kingdom.

While we draw breath, let us seek to worship and serve and glorify God.  And sure, we’re far from perfect.  But God is here. And so we have all the hope and love we need.

In His grip, Pastor Matthew

Tuesday
Feb232016

March

“The Infuriating and Hilarious Story of Jacob”
- Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle

In the book of Genesis, a lot of time is spent in telling the story of Jacob, the one whom God would rename “Israel” (“Israel” is Hebrew for “wrestles with God”). It makes sense that so much time would be spent on Jacob/Israel’s story, for this is the patriarch whose name gets attached to God’s chosen nation - the tribe through which God would ultimately reveal himself to the nations as the One True God.  Yet strangely enough, Jacob is one of the biggest anti-heroes of the Bible. He is not heroic or brave.

He is not a “man’s man” like his older, nobler brother, Esau. Jacob is smarmy, deceitful, lazy, and entitled. Jacob and his Mom team up to trick Dad (Isaac) into giving the birthright and first-born blessings to cheating Jacob instead of deserving Esau. And God allows it all. Reading the story, one feels sorry for Esau and has no sympathy whatsoever for that Momma’s Boy, Jacob. 

The story of Jacob is one of the early Bible stories that prepares us for God’s big-picture gospel of grace, which will be fully revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How? It confronts us with the concept of unearned grace. In fact, it blatantly slaps us in the face with it. When that awful so-and-so Jacob receives the blessing, and Esau doesn’t, we get disgusted. Obviously, this Old Testament family is messed up; full of jealousy, bitterness, injustice, and scandal. Clearly, the Bible doesn’t sanitize the past.  WE want to sanitize it, but the Bible resists easy explanations. We read it and can get confused and angry. It invites us in to wrestle with real life. The Bible asks us to dig deeper, and then astonishes us with what it reveals about God and about us.

Those great Old Testament stories (like the stories of Joseph and Jacob) pull the rug out from under us.  They end with reconciliation when there should have been retribution. The mistreated parties offer unmerited forgiveness. God’s plan works out regardless of the characters’ deserving. It can be simultaneously infuriating and comical. We confront a central paradox about our Maker - that God is simultaneously JUST and GRACIOUS.

When we’re honest, we start to see just how Jacob-like we are. We’re not the heroes we want to be. In fact, we don’t really want to admit how fatally messed up we are. And yet God is undaunted by the miserable clay He has to work with. And when we recognize the unearned gift of grace God offers through the unearned death that Jesus endured for us, it leads us through Good Friday death to Easter resurrection. We fall in love all over again, and start to understand how grace received results in wonderful transformation. Then we’ll rightly confess: “This was all about God. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost!”

In His Grip,
Pastor Matthew

Wednesday
Jan272016

February

In with the New
Pastor’s reflection - Rev. Matthew Froeschle

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”  -Isaiah 65:17
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  -John 13:34
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  -2 Corinthians 5:17
“And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new.”  -Revelation 21:5

Did you notice a theme in those Scriptures? God seems all about the NEW, which is fine by us,because we tend to like new things. Probably every one of us can imagine changes we would welcome; improvements we’d like to see.  But change also means risk, and we don’t like risk. Significant change requires a great deal of effort, and then we start to question whether or not the desired result is worth the inevitable blood, sweat, and tears.

Perhaps what we would most welcome would be a return to how things used to be. But nostalgia generally goes hand-in-hand with selective amnesia, as we tend to forget about or minimize the difficulties of the past. In any case, a return to the past is most assuredly NOT going to happen. As Scripture says, “The old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

So, let’s return to present realities, and engage with the living God. What new things might God be calling us to do, individually and as a church? Might we need to imagine new ways of being Jesus’ disciples? Let’s honestly assess the ministry. Are we doing things that we are no longer being called by God to do? Or are there things we’re not doing that God would have us do?  The phrase “we’ve never done it that way before” is sometimes used as a discouraging warning, but it is also a landmark on our path to God.

Remember Abraham and his family. They were called by God to leave behind everything they knew in order to faithfully follow the Lord. Some of the changes they may well have liked, but some things they most decidedly didn’t. They got scared. They made mistakes. But God never gave up on them.  As Abraham was, we also are called to follow the Lord’s leading. It’s certain that as individuals and as a church we’ll make mistakes. Quite likely, there will be some failures. That’s life. The only way to avoid mistakes and failures is to do nothing, which is in itself the greatest failure of all.  But remember, God has provided for our mistakes and failures through Christ (“My grace is sufficient for you.” -2 Corinthians 12:9). We don’t want to fail, obviously. And Jesus’ forgiveness is not an excuse to indulge in selfishness or foolishness. But we are not called to stagnate. We are to be in deep counsel with our lively Lord.

1 Chronicles 14:8-17 tells the story of how King David won two back-to-back battles against the Philistines. What’s interesting about this story is how David communes deeply and earnestly with God before both battles, even when it appeared that the second battle could be won using the same strategy they used the first time. David didn’t say “we’ll just do it like last time,” he went right to God and, according to the Lord’s commands, tried something different. I guess God didn’t want David to be predictable.  When it comes down to it, the right place to be is waiting upon the Lord; vigilant, but not fearful; patient, but not lethargic; courageous, but not proud. We must avoid the temptations to cling to the past or to think that we’ve already got it made. For we are on a daily adventure with a creative, joyful, exciting God who is always up to something new.

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