I’m Not Amazed

I was reading a prayer from Valley of Vision this morning and was particularly struck by its ending:

I thank Thee for showing me the vast difference between knowing things by reason, and knowing them by the spirit of faith. By reason I see a thing is so; by faith I know it as it is. I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed, I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have been ravished to behold thee. I bless thee that I am thine in my Savior, Jesus.

from “Belonging to Jesus” in Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Trust

Over the past several weeks I have been reading my bible daily, participating in my weekly men’s group and my weekly couples study and (virtually) attending church with my wife every Sunday. I have seen prayers answered and unearned blessings granted to me, to my family and to my friends. Even so, “I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed.” How is that possible?

I desire to “See Thee as Thou art in thy Son” and to be “ravished to behold Thee.” I honestly don’t know what’s holding me back from seeing by faith and knowing things as they are as opposed to simply seeing that things are so based on my own reasoning. That is my prayer for myself today: That the Holy Spirit would show me what’s impeding me – remove the scales from my eyes! – and let me be ravished to behold the father.

I’m going to follow someone. Who will it be?

I love this verse from the 32nd Psalm. It’s a reminder to me that I can follow the norms of my culture, I can follow the demands of my selfish heart, or I can follow God. I pray that He’ll give me the softness of heart & the wisdom to see the path He has set for me, and the courage to follow it!

Living Water – A Remarkable Story of Jesus

One of the things I love most about the bible is that God is always showing me new meaning in stories I’ve read hundreds of times – often through one of the amazing teaching pastors at The Austin Stone. Earlier this year was one of those times, when Ross Lester talked through the famous story of the woman at the well – which I now understand in a completely different way than I ever had before.

You can hear Ross’ sermon here – please give it a listen! He’s also written a great blog post on the subject that you can check out here:

Reconsidering John 4: A Christian Posture Towards Vulnerable Women

It’s all based on this text:



Why does our faith influence our choices on Sunday, but not on Monday?


Mark Labberton on Faith in the Workplace


Don’t live in past darkness


Guilt or Grace?


How my Jesus sees me

The "sentence" that results

The “sentence” that results

Guilt and shame may make me work harder – for a while. But at the end of the day, that “hard work” is really me saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough … That I too have to contribute to my salvation.

The truth is that I am already free! I can serve my Lord in a spirit of gratitude, humility & joy. He has made me his own!

Christ’s Church – Interactive Style

Every March, nearly 20,000 people come to Austin for the South by Southwest Interactive conference (SxSWi).  They come from big companies and small, from every industry, from non-profits and multi-billion dollar global enterprises.  What they have in common is that they are very tuned in to all things digital … especially the use of social, digital and mobile media to reach audiences of all stripes.

So for 5 days every March, Austin becomes the networking capital of the world.  Even with over 500 panels and presentations to choose from, the most valuable part of the conference is that all of those people, with at least one shared interest and a proclivity towards communication, are in the same place at the same time.

As I lead in to the meat of this post (and I do tend to love the preamble to a fault – but hey, it’s my blog), let me give you a run-down of my spiritual history with SxSW:

  • 2009: Traveled down with a team from Humana (in Louisville, KY).  Was blown away – and swept away – by panels, parties, concerts, dinners, and business meetings.  I don’t remember thinking about Jesus during that trip.
  • 2010: I knew that I needed to keep my spiritual focus in the midst of the madness, so I resolved to go to church on Sunday.  I live on twitter, so I recall sending out a tweet to ask if anyone wanted to join me.  Nobody responded.  Undeterred, I got up early on Sunday and walked down the street to Austin CityLife Church (which was then meeting in The Parish – VERY Austin for a church to meet in a bar).
  • 2011: By now I lived in Austin, was regularly attending the Austin Stone Community Church, and was feeling purposeful about putting together a church outing.  I used a (then) new tool called Plancast to let people know that I’d love to “host” them at a service at the Stone.  A few (6, to be exact) people came, and friendships were formed.  You can read my recap of that experience here, in The Church and the Social Network

That brings us up to date.  This year, I had a feeling that God had good things in store for this project that’s been dubbed SxSWinspiration.  I thought it would be a lot more fun to work with some collaborators this year, so I brought in my longtime friend Bryan Person, and Michelle Batten, whom I’d met at SxSW in 2010 and was one of the 6 inaugural attendees for SxSWinspiration.  Together, after lots of prayer and conversation, we felt that it’d be cool to add some fellowship time in addition to worship … so we ended up creating two separate pieces:

  1. Breakfast downtown, within walking distance of the conference hotels
  2. Worship at the Stone, with transportation provided by any locals who could come

We again turned to PlanCast, and then God went to work [Note: God was really working all the time; I’m taking some literary license here.  Hey, it’s my blog].

On Sunday morning, I picked up 5 dozen breakfast tacos from El Arroyo (muy delicioso, trust me) and my new friend Joey McGirr grabbed a box of Starbucks.  We met at my company’s office at 6th and Congress, and waited to see if anyone would show up.  They did.

By my best count, we had 17 Christ-followers in the house, breaking bread and enjoying each other’s company.  They came from as nearby as Austin’s Clarksville neighborhood, and from as far away as London.  They were former pastors, app developers, front-end web programmers, physicians with a passion for providing healthcare in underserved communities, and digital security experts.  They worked for startups like BeRemedy and ROAR and for global leaders like Nokia and Gemalto.  The common elements: They all love and follow Jesus.  They share a passion for glorifying his name.  And they all work in fields that are traditionally not very friendly towards Christians.

After a simple prayer and some introductions, we just talked … mostly in groups of two or three – before separating either to come worship at the Stone or to head back to their conference business.  But we all agreed to a few more things before we went:

  1. The digital world in general, and SxSW in particular, are a mission field for us.
  2. We want to stay together throughout the year – to support each other personally and professionally – through prayer and our social networks.
  3. We hope to grow this group of “digital Christians” at SxSW – and eventually begin to bring seekers into our fold to learn about Jesus

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the cast of characters that is SxSWinspiration, part II:

Front Row, L-R: Jon Burkhart, Ivor Horn, Kim Hollenshead, Carl Bliss, Matt McKee
Middle Row, L-R: Annie Hsieh, Michelle Batten, Jay Ehret
Back Row, L-R: Blake Canterbury, Sean Valderas, Joey McGirr, Reed Smith, Mike Neumann, Matt Thomson, Greg Matthews and Bryan Person (NP were Greg Swan & Josh Jensen)

You can follow us all on Twitter here – as Bryan Person has been kind enough to curate a twitter list.  And you can see more pictures of the gang on this Flickr set.  We haven’t figured out exactly how we’re going to stay connected yet, but we will … I’ve already seen some great examples of this group supporting one another (through twitter and through simple showing up at real-life events), so I don’t doubt that trend will continue to grow.  Would love to hear your thoughts and questions in these comments – so fire away!

[Special thanks are due to Michelle Batten and Bryan Person for planning, prayer and support; to Joey McGirr for stepping in to fill an urgent need – coffee – on Sunday morning; to Jon Manning and Zac Allen at the Austin Stone for their prayers and support; and to my wife Amy Matthews for putting up with being a SxSWidow every year – and for her unceasing prayers, support and love].

SxSWinspiration is ON!

I’m so excited to host a group of Christians this morning during the South by Southwest (SxSW) Interactive festival.  Today we’ll be meeting for breakfast and fellowship, and for those who’d like to do so, continuing on to worship at the Austin Stone Community Church‘s 11:15 service.

If you’d like to participate, here’s the information you’ll need:

When: 9:30 AM on Sunday the 11th.  Don’t forget that we LOST AN HOUR last night!  Daylight savings is now upon us.

Where: WCG.  101 W. 6th St., Suite 330 (Google Maps Link)

How: Come to the 6th Street entrance of the Scarbrough Building, between Gold’s Gym and Ruth’s Chris.  Security will let you in; mention Greg Matthews or WCG and you’ll be fine.  Come to the 3rd floor; suite 330 is in the back.

What: Fellowship, Coffee, OJ and El Arroyo Breakfast Tacos (they’re SO GOOD!) 😉

Who: Your hosts today are Greg Matthews, Michelle Batten and Bryan Person

Does Jesus want miracles for our lives?

I’ve been working on a new daily bible reading plan this year – M’Cheyne – and I’ll be writing more on that in a later post. For now, I wanted to focus on something that really struck me from my reading this morning. If you grew up in Sunday school, or have spent much time in the bible, you’ll have read about Peter walking on water somewhere between dozens and thousands of times. But I had some different eyes this morning:

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31, NIV 1984

There are a few things that stand out for me here. First, Peter’s instinct is remarkable. I’m trying to imagine myself as Peter, and wondering what he was thinking about. Yes, he’s seen Jesus working miracles. But at this point, there have been few, if any, that impacted any of the disciples personally. Yet when Peter – in the middle of the night – realizes that he’s not seeing a ghost on the waters, but his teacher, doesn’t merely look on in wonderment or glorify God. He asks Christ if he, too, can walk on the water to meet his Master. To me, that speaks to a special kind of faith. A faith that essentially blocks every fact – including the law of gravity and any knowledge about the physical properties of water – and focuses every ounce of his being on his Christ and the desire to be with him. How often is my faith so exclusive? How often does my faith produce the kind of Christ-centered tunnel-vision that Peter experienced?

The second thing that made me really put on my thinking cap this morning was Jesus’ response. He didn’t say, “hang on, Pete, I’ll be there in a minute.” He didn’t say, “Peter, don’t waste my time with foolishness – just wait in the boat.” He simply said, “Come.” I imagine him smiling in a combination of joy and amusement at Peter’s childlike faith. And it made me wonder what I would be capable of – in Christ – if I just asked earnestly to walk with my Master. Would anything be impossible?

A million little choices

This is a snippet of the script from a movie called, “The Paper.” Henry (Michael Keaton) is trying to convince his wife that he’ll be there when the chips are down. But every day, he makes little choices that favor his job over his family.

Martha: Let me give you a hypothetical.
Henry: Really?
Martha: A guy breaks into the apartment. – Breaks into the apartment. He’s got a gun, holds it to my head. He says, “I blow your wife’s brains out or I blow up the “Sun” building.” Choose. Now. What do you say?
Henry: What do you think I say? It’s ridiculous. It’s not gonna happen.
Martha: That is exactly my point. It is never one big dramatic choice. It is little, vague situations every day … and you’re either there or you’re not. If you keep waiting for the guy with the gun to show up, it will be too late.

Now let’s look at what Jesus had to say about “the little things” vs. “the ONLY thing:”

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.  Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”  Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Luke 9:57-62, The Message

It occurred to me that our choice to follow Jesus is like Henry’s choice. That’s right … It’s never one big choice . .. Its a million little choices, every day, that add up to the same thing.

Jesus, or everything else? I read about the saints throughout the ages who suffered torture and death because they proclaimed Jesus. Would I be tortured or die for Jesus? I might be wrong, but I think I would. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d be offered the choice to renounce Christ or die – and failing to choose Christ.

But that’s not likely to be a situation I face. However, I face a million little choices every day too. Choices about proclaiming Christ when it’s uncomfortable (in the office, perhaps). Choices to stand out from the crowd and honor God through behavior that might be unpopular. If I’m truly honest with myself, I almost NEVER choose Jesus in those circumstances – I’m too much of a chicken. Too afraid that people won’t like me – hence the name of this blog.

And that’s a problem. My prayer for today: That God will guide my heart in the little decisions – because when they’re about Jesus, they’re just as important as the big ones.