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."






“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



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.



From the Pastor's Desk:

Dear friends,
I’ve shared the following excerpt from H.A. Williams’ book “Tensions” with other believers before, but I thought I’d share it with the church here in Mattoon this month, as we begin the new year. I love the gift of seeing the Christian gospel from a new perspective. I hope you will enjoy this reading as much as I have, and have a truly blessed 2016! May our Lord continue to surprise us all with hilariously good news.
-Pastor Matthew

                                                            “THE JESTER”
                                              From Tensions by H. A. Williams

In terms of time, the eternal Lord of all order appears to be the Lord of misrule. No wonder the Pharisees, who seem to have been always wholly serious, had to have Jesus put down. He couldn’t be allowed to go on indefinitely standing everything on its head and making their piety look ridiculous. Why, in the end, they might even laugh themselves, and that would be the ultimate catastrophe!
Who in reality had ever witnessed a pious man blowing a trumpet before he put a pound note in the church box? The notion was irresponsibly misleading. And then there were camels going through the eyes of needles, not to mention camels being swallowed easily by those who choked when they swallowed a gnat. And if people did sometimes get a speck in the eye, who ever heard of a man, and an improving teacher at that, who had a log in his? And worse: idlers who were given full pay, stewards who were successful cheats, spendthrift and debauched sons being feted on their return home -what had all this pernicious nonsense to do with religion? It could only undermine the morals of society, and, being socially dangerous had to be stopped; stopped before the contagion of eternal love showed up the whole solemn system of moralism and religiosity as a complete knockabout farce. So the Jester had to be crucified.
But Eternity had the last laugh after all. For that is the final joke - the resurrection. Here are Caiaphas and all his crowd, Pilate and Herod and all theirs, sitting complacently in a state of grave and dignified self-congratulation. They have done their duty and justified the authority vested in them by efficiently disposing once and for all of a dangerous fool. He is safely dead. And with solemn calm again restored they can concentrate once more on the really serious matters to which their lives are dedicated. But behind their backs, without them having the slightest inkling of what is going on, the fool has popped up again like a Jack-in-the-box and is dancing about even more vigorously than before and even more compellingly. People here, there and everywhere are falling under his spell. But the brass hats and mitred heads and stuffed shirts are facing the other way and can’t see what is going on. So they continue with their dignified mutual congratulation and their serious business.
If that isn’t funny, nothing is. It is the supreme, the final, the ultimate joke-that than which nothing could be funnier. And since laughter, although not irresistible is none the less highly contagious, perhaps the brass hats themselves will in time catch the disease, turn around, see the joke, and laugh with the rest of creation because the kingdom of God has drawn near.



From the Pastor's Desk:

“The Heart of the Church”
I’ll bet you have, at one time or another, visited another church that has made your home church seem a bit...lacking... by comparison. Come on, admit it! That church you visited was blessed with some cool stuff that you wish your home church had. (“A coffee bar!” “A rocking raise band!” “An enormous pipe organ!”) Or perhaps that church was doing some really cool programs that you wish your home church did. Then you returned here to FPC in Mattoon, and you started thinking how we might go about getting those things or doing those programs.
We tend to get hung up on comparisons, don’t we? We struggle with envy. We want to be like so-and-so. We want “our” church to be like that church. Forget about the work of discerning who God is calling US to be or discerning what God’s purpose for this particular church in this particular place might be, we want to skip that whole process and bounce right ahead to the end product. “Let’s just look and act like them.”
What I often fail to remember is that God had designed that specific church or person to meet the very specific mission or ministry He has for them to accomplish. Our American image of successful ministry usually involves huge crowds and impressive facilities. But we can’t all be mega-churches or nationally known Christian celebrities. What about those individuals who aren’t reached by such ministries?  Over and above appearance and behavior, the Bible teaches us that God considers the HEART. God cares about WHY we do what we do. The important matters for a church to discuss have less to do with cosmetic or programatic changes, and more to do with allowing Christ to shape our attitude and guide us in mission. A building and programs can be useful tools in sharing the gospel, but it’s far more important for a church to actually be in love with Jesus.
As the apostle Paul might say, “If we have the greatest music in town, and all the newest gadgets and tools for ministry, and the finest sermons around, but have not love, we’re nothing more than an amusing show - here today and forgotten tomorrow.”  Are we in a love relationship with Jesus as individuals and as a church? Are we talking with Him and each other about what He is calling us to accomplish? Rather than comparing this church with that church, shouldn’t we be in communion with God, asking Him to reveal the divine gifts and passions already present, and inviting Him to use them according to God’s will?
We are here for a purpose. We are here to testify to Awesome God in the unique way only FPC can. And we are united in spirit (not in competition) with every church and believer who wants God to be glorified, and lay ALL crowns and accomplishments down joyfully at His feet. God alone is worthy of such a Christmas gift!
In Christ’s grip,
Rev. Matthew Froeschle



From the Pastor’s Desk

God is generous. Do you doubt that? If you do, then I invite you to try a couple of very small tests and see if your opinion changes afterwards. 

Test One: Go outside, and find a solitary place. You know - a place where there are no distractions, where you can simply be alone with God. Look around and consider this: there is no other human being there to experience the beauty you are experiencing at that moment (and yes - there is beauty even on a “gloomy” day).  So who is God presenting that vista to? God is painting that picture for your eyes only. Wow.

Test Two: Have some delicious, perfectly browned turkey (or some other food you really like) and consider - why does that food taste so good? Why did God give you literally thousands of nuanced taste buds, so that eating is not only sustaining your body, but is also hugely enjoyable (too enjoyable)?

Those are but two examples that are granted to just about every human being. There are thousands more - all making the case that God is generous.  What keeps us from being as generous? Why do we “sow so sparingly” at times? Why do we hold on so tightly to things? Why do our things have such a tight hold on us?  It is in the letting go - it is in the sharing - that a thing becomes so much better. It’s a good thing to have that smile on your face, but it is an even better thing to experience the satisfaction of putting a smile on someone else’s face. That’s the kind of love that God has. That’s “agape” love.

I think part of what holds us back is our (misguided) perception that we don’t have much to give. We get so focused on our own needs and on our own wants that we forgo our mission to be cheerful givers (the Bible uses the phrase “hilarious givers”). Instead, we begin to resent any requests made of our time, talents, or resources.  “Don’t worry, little flock,” said Jesus, “the Father has been pleased to give you the KINGDOM.”  Guess what? If a beautiful natural vista or a delicious bowl of mashed potatoes weren’t nice enough gifts, consider that we have been made heirs of everything. God’s inheritance (you know, the stuff God owns that God gives to His children) consists of all things, seen and unseen, that God made. And God is most pleased to share all of that with us.  I mean, God gave us His Son. Given that God has already shared with us His most valuable gift, what do you think He would be unwilling to give? And it didn’t matter that God knew we were going to kill Jesus. God gave Himself anyway - to the unworthy, ungrateful, undeserving, sinful and needy fugitives (that’s all of us - and that’s me).

In light of this, do we still believe ourselves to be impoverished, and incapable of sharing what we’ve freely received with others? Aren’t we rather overflowing with gratitude? Shout it with me! “Thanks, Giving God!” And add an exclamation point by sowing generously.

In His Grip,

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