Monday, March 17, 2014

The Jesus Sandwich (but Jesus is the bread)

In Philippians 2:1-11 Paul throws down a challenge for the Philippians... but it is not in a vacuum, watch how the challenge is sandwiched with Jesus...

Jesus Our Motivation, 2:1
“If you have any encouragement from being in Christ …” Stop right there. Answer the question, do you? Have you been encouraged by your relationship with Christ? Has this union with Him impacted your outlook on life? What else has He done for you? Do you have any “comfort from his love?” Has there ever been a time where the love of Christ brought your soul comfort? Have you ever had “fellowship in the Spirit?” Have you had a moment where it occurs to you that you can fellowship with God, and with fellow believers, because He’s given you His Holy Spirit? If you answered no to all of these, it is because you either need to get saved, or you are still very young in your faith and have not learned how to recognize these blessings of being in Christ. If you answered yes to any of these… you’ve just been set up. With these privileges comes responsibility… “be like minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and purpose.”

The Challenge, 2:2-5
If you’ve been loved, then love. If you’ve been encouraged, then encourage. If you’ve been united with Christ, be united with each other… “being one in Spirit and in purpose.” Paul wants to see them united, not just to present a united front against opposition to the Gospel (1:27), but also to enjoy the benefits of unity – namely, looking out for one another, serving one another, loving one another. That is why they should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit!” That’s challenging, but they have the motivation of being united with Christ, comforted by His love, fellowshipping with His Spirit. So they can “in humility, consider others better than themselves.” Practically, this will look like people looking “not only to their own interests but also to the interest of others.” And all of this behavior is motivated by Jesus – who provides “encouragement … comfort from His love … fellowship in the Spirit.” What Jesus provides gives security and joy to the one who believes in Him; this security makes one able to look outside himself … to the interest of others. That’s how Jesus motivates. But the Philippians may need more than just motivation for selfless living… they may need a model.

Jesus Our Model, 2:5-11
Who better to model selfless living than Jesus, and Paul wants them to have the same mindset Jesus had. You see even though Jesus was God, He didn’t play that card to His advantage, He didn’t demand God-like status or treatment while He was on earth. So also, the one who is living selflessly must not demand status or treatment that they may think they deserve. Jesus emptied Himself, made Himself nothing. The one who will live selflessly will do the same - emptying self-promotion, and self-centered agendas. Jesus took on the form of a servant, not because He was forced into servitude, but because He followed His Father’s will into servitude. The one who lives selflessly will serve others, willingly, following Jesus’ model. But how far should someone go in serving others? How far does the selfless living rabbit hole go? Pretty deep – Jesus humbled himself to the point of death, death on a cross… public humiliation. Not because He made poor choices and paid the consequence, but because His love for His Father, and for others was bigger than His love for self. We also see that God exalted Jesus. Jesus humbled Himself, but God exalted Him. Don't seek self promotion, trust God for how He will direct your life, as you humbly serve others, just like Jesus did. Getting ahead in life, being promoted, climbing the ladder - patiently put these in God's hands, recognizing your patience may carry you all the way to the end of your life. Expand your timeline beyond this life, and let your faith fuel your patience and humility in this life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Deception of Idols

There are many men today who struggle with sexual sin. If you're one of them I hope these 5 simple points will encourage you. If you are not, may God use these to equip you to encourage others, or apply them to another area of bondage in your life.

1. Come to a realization that the images you are viewing (or the over eating, over shopping, over body sculpting, etc) are a form of idolatry. God warns constantly against idolatry (Isaiah 41:29, 42:17, 44:9), but not because He's an insecure whiny God who gets His feelings hurt if you look elsewhere. It is because He sees things accurately. He knows that He alone is worthy of your worship, and He wants you to experience what He designed you to experience - satisfaction, in Him. Idols cannot provide satisfaction (ask Mick Jagger).

2. Come to a realization that idols lie. They promise satisfaction but cannot deliver. The do this by appealing to our physical senses - the things that we can feel most quickly. And they definitely deliver ... for a few moments. Then the lie sets in. And you realize you've been deceived... again. No matter how many times you try, an idol will never satisfy. It only deceives you into thinking it will.

3. Recognize that your faith, not your will power, can free you from bondage to idols. The foundation of faith will lead to your freedom. You must have a sincere belief that Jesus is better, that what He offers is better. Your faith must go beyond a simple belief in the existence of God, it must reflect the truth of Hebrews 11:6 "Those who come to God must believe that He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him." Not only is God real, what He offers is real - abundant life, joy, peace, purpose. Things that an idol can never offer you. So you must have faith that what God offers is better than what the idol offers. Once this faith is in place, your will can feel the power to say no to idols. But will power without faith is just law ... it doesn't work.

4. Fuel your brain with truth. There are many passages that talk about the importance of the mind (Colossians 3:2, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5, I Peter 1:13, Ephesians 4:22-24). There is a reason for this - that is where the day to day battle is won. Faith must be the foundation, but truth must fill your mind in order for you to behave according to what you believe. What truth from God's Word helps you savor the beauty of Christ? Fill your mind with those truths. What truth from God's Word reminds you that you have been made new in Christ, and no longer have to submit to idolatry (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10, I Peter 2:9 are just a few)

5. Share your journey with someone else regularly, and invite them to ask how you are doing with the steps above. Don't let it devolve into a "did you mess up?" session... let it be a worship session - be honest about your struggles, but end with the beauty of Christ, a reminder of your ultimate satisfaction.

Friday, September 27, 2013

100 Wins.

From what I understand, earning 100 wins at one school is a significant feat. And if I think about it, it certainly is... but my situation is a little different. I'm used to winning... my dad is Coach Bob Christmas, and he's been winning football games for almost 4 decades. District Champs, Region Champs, State Champs ... done it all. Coach of the Year - several times. Broken records - yea, lots of those, especially at North Hall High School where Coach Christmas is in his 12th year.

I played for my Dad, and coached with my him as well, and I learned invaluable life lessons - hard work, loyalty, determination, intensity. I had no idea how much these experiences under his leadership would shape my values.  As much as I've enjoyed being part of winning football programs, I have seen how the value of solid coaching goes beyond Friday nights. The wins are great, but when the games end, life goes on. I loved winning while I played, but I'm still loving applying the values acquired playing for my Dad.

And I'm not the only one who feels that way. I remember a phone call I got when I was about 17 years old. The home phone rang (cause that's all that existed back then), and someone asked for Coach Christmas. He wasn't home, so I got to speak with one of his former players. He explained how much Coach Christmas had meant to him, how much he had taught him, how much he had inspired him. "Tell your Dad I'm doing real good man." These reconnections from former players were not uncommon.

Having 100 wins at one school is incredible, but it's about so much more than wins. Just ask the men who have played for Bob Christmas.

Congratulations Coach. I'm proud of you Dad.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dating Your Wife, Part II

(this post speaks very frankly about what is a sensitive topic to some... you've been warned.)

After sharing these thoughts with some friends and getting some feedback, I've decided to camp out on this topic for another post. Particularly concerning "sexpectations," and creative dating on a budget.

Two of my buddies pointed out how important it is to think correctly about the difference between how our wives tend to view sex, and how us guys tend to view it. It is usually very different. Here a few observations concerning the different ways men and women tend to view sex...
  • Men are turned on easily and often. Women are turned on ... sometimes.
  • Men are turned on visually (or if your wife accidentally touches your thigh as she walks by you) ... women seem to be turned on emotionally - when they feel loved, cared for, cherished. (and no, your new biceps from extra time at the gym are probably not gonna get her there... sorry)
  • For men sex leads to intimacy (even that's a stretch for some guys), for woman - intimacy leads to sex.
  • Men who are stressed can become de-stressed by hopping in the sac... women who are stressed become distressed by hopping in the sac. We like to do it to clear our heads ... they need to clear their heads before they can do it.
  • Women tend to measure frequency by times per month ... men - times today?
  • Women need time to prepare. Men need time to... unzip. That's about it.
So, what does this mean for us? It means we need to love our wives by putting their needs above our own, even in this area. That means I need to work toward making my wife feel cherished, in a way that she understands. I need to help her de-stress. If I put fort the effort to help her focus on relaxing and being able to prepare mentally so she can enjoy it, then she does. We think "prepare mentally" ?! what does that mean?... It means a lot to them. So ... giving her space to relax and decompress, taking on some more of the daily chores - kitchen, kids, etc ... not to bribe her (that's key), but to help her relax. This will give her some emotional and mental margin in which to prepare for being with you in a special way.

Another important factor that communicates intimacy - nonsexual touch. A quick shoulder rub, a long hug (try not to get a bo-... uh... become aroused), squeeze her hand, kiss her forehead ... and don't expect it to go anywhere! She should be able to enjoy the comfort of physical touch without the expectation of sex. This will make her feel cherished for who she is, not what she has to offer.

Additional thoughts from my buddy Keith ... "we need to all put down the IPads, tv remote, laptop, etc and just talk to each other.  How many nights do you sit beside your wife on the couch and decompress after the kids go to bed and never even talk to each other." Good word Keith. Guys, this is going to require you being intentional with your evenings. If you just do the default you're probably going to be plugged into some kind of device. Go against the grain, put it down. Look your wife in the eyes and ask how she's doing, really. And then listen, really. If the weather's nice maybe sit on the patio, this may help eliminate distractions.

Overall, I think one of the keys is to remember that the goal is not simply to get her in bed, but to enjoy the intimacy that God designed us to experience with our wives, and in order to do this, we need to think about her, and put her first. So, if you've been taking your cues from Austin Powers ("in my country men come first and women come second... or sometimes not at all") ... stop.

We'll do creative dating on a budget next post. But here's your warning ... you're gonna have to think and plan. Don't be scared. You can do it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dating Your Wife

I was talking earlier with a friend about spending time with our wives, and spending time with God. Both are super important. Both come from the desire in our hearts. Both are appropriate because of the relationship we have with them. And ... both are sometimes difficult. So, men, I want to take a few posts (or maybe one if I have less to say than I think) and explore some of the beauty and complexity of spending time with the two most important people in our lives. Let's start with our wives ...

When was the last time you and your wife went out on a date? What was it like? Where did you go? Was it planned or a remix of that famous scene from Jungle Book ... "so whatcha wanna do? ... I dunno, whatcha wanna do?" Just how much thought should go into something like this? If you have kids this subject may be of particular interest. Before kids you didn't really date, you just lived ... it was one huge date. Just the two of you, pick up and go wherever whenever. Those of you with kids know how different it is now. And I'm here to state clearly - your dating life is super important, and requires thought.

So here are some practical thoughts for dating your wife ...

1. Only date her. (simple, but critical)

2. Think through your dates... what do you need? Are the two of you feeling busy? stressed? disconnected? tired? romantic? Guys, another dinner-and-a-movie night might not cut it. So, think about where you are, and what sort of date might be needed in your relationship at the time.

Sometimes you just need some time with just the two of you, to think straight, and actually plan further than the next day. You may need to talk about some important life stuff ... future plans, big life decisions on the horizon. If so, those things may preoccupy both of you while you're trying to have a date. It may be wise to plan to discuss these things for the first half of your date. So bring this idea up to your wife, and decide together how much time the heavy conversation should occupy, and then relax for the rest of it.

Are you feeling disconnected due to busyness, the mundane, or big life transition (ahem, baby)? You may want to intentionally not talk about the big thing (or tiny little thing, like 8lbs 3 oz) that's got you both feeling so stressed, and instead find ways to just share your heart with each other. Fellas, this will take some forethought. Have you ever genuinely wanted to offer this kind of heart connection to your wife but the best you can come up with at the moment is ... "so, how are you?" Write out some good discussion starting questions, google em if you have to, have a plan for how to get the two of you talking about things other than life routine. Here's a fun one ... what embarrassing styles did you rock in middle school and high school? Could bring some good laughs. Laughing is healthy. Here's an interesting one ... what jobs did you have in high school and college and what did you learn from them? You may find that questions like these not only have the potential to bring some much needed laughter, but can often spin off into other meaningful conversations as well. (she says she learned to be patient at one of her jobs ... you say "that's one of the things I really love about you" ... please don't miss that cue. It's a soft ball.) And by the way, don't try to hide the fact that you thought through, researched, and wrote out some questions. Nothing wrong with being intentional and prepared. Also nothing wrong with letting her know that you're going to do that.

Have you been in the middle of a busy season, and you feel connected, but just sort of emotionally taxed? Here's where your movie night might come in. Dinner and a movie, or sometimes, just a movie, is not a bad date. But it probably shouldn't be every date. In this particular scenario it may just be what's needed ... go see something funny. Let her pick. If she doesn't know, have 3 in mind and have her choose one of those three, or at least eliminate one of those three. Sit close, laugh, hold hands, relax.

What if there are no major stresses or life planning to be done, but you're just in need of some romance? Here's where you can get creative. Tell her you want handle the kids-to-bed duties while she takes a hot bath (or if you only have one bathtub... while she puts her feet up and listens to soft music). Then set up some candles at your table, put on some light jazz, pull out a spread of cheeses, fruit, chocolate, wine (or sparkling grape juice, depending on your denomination ;) ... be prepared to tell her a few things you really appreciate about her, and how much you love her. Important note - you might want to be clear on the sexpectations for this night ... you may see this going one way (in fact I'm sure you do), and she may see it going a different way, like ... drifting off to sleep while you gently rub her back. It may be wise to determine ahead of time whether sex is in the plans for the night or not. I know that may feel like it reduces the romance, but her feeling like you had an agenda the whole time, or you feeling rejected - also not romantic.

Ok, so there were really only two points - 1. only date your wife, and 2. think through your date. But a lot of sub points under that second one. Think it through guys - I think your wife would feel honored by the thought you put into your next date. Let me know if you want some more discussion starter questions.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Slept in a little, but still up and rolling around 7. Moving. Leaving this great house that we love, but trusting there's even greater things ahead. We brought Mary Grace home to this house, led our first community group together in this house, shared Christ with people in this house, had our first "let's love our neighbors by serving/feedig them" cookout at this house, we did a lot of updates in this house, we cried tears, laughed laughs, um... let's see... oh - wiped baby  butts, and basically, just, loved it here. Thank you God for this house. Our house on Grace St. I'll never forget it. How fitting.

I read some Oswald this morning ... he emphasized that service is not about pleasing people ultimately ... not mostly for their good. It must be generated by our love for God. I think I've been a little off base there. God designed me to really really love and care about people... but I get discouraged easily. I think I need to stay focused on God and His glory (while maintaining compassion for people) and serving and speaking truth for HIS glory.

We've really got a lot going on right now. Trying to pack up the whole house today (while taking a few breaks here and there to finish sermon prep for tomorrow!), got worship gathering, leadership lunch, and then 4 football games Sunday, get the truck and load everything up Monday, CG Monday night, close on Lincoln Tuesday morning, begin cleaning/painting, speak at RVA United Tuesday night, move everything in Wednesday, and then ... wait for it... go snow skiing Thursday. (not to mention I'm supposed to be writing an article for Steve Wright about church planting)

So here's this from 2 Cor. 4 (Msg) ...

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RichmondGRID and the Glory of God

I was hanging out at Boyer's Coffee and Ice Cream the other day (like them on fb here) when I picked up a copy of something interesting, something I had not seen before, something that really caught my attention ... it was a magazine called Richmond Grid. As I thumbed through I saw themes pop up that really resonated with me: creativity, innovation, service. This was a magazine that highlighted activity in the city that I really cared about - I was hooked.

When I got home I looked them up online to see about getting a subscription (, and on their website I found the following titles ... Kindness: Every Move Matters. Richmond Moves to Knock Out Poverty. And an article about a VCU student who started the Humanity Helping Sudan Project. This was exciting stuff!

But do you know what I didn't see, anywhere. The church. I kept thumbing through, kept looking; I saw lots about non-profits, I saw lots of words and phrases that we use in church, but no recognition of the church impacting the city through innovation, creativity, and service. And these things belong to God! He created creativity! He calls us to service! But the glory of God was not represented in this publication, which was all about things that He made for His glory. Certainly part of that is due to the anti-church bias that seems to be pervasive, especially in urban settings. But part of it is because the church is so far behind in these areas!

I quickly felt God stirring something in my heart - infiltrate, let the Kingdom break through in your life, and make it known. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16. These people are letting their lights shine! And doing good deeds ... but I heard nothing about the glory of God. I want to change that.