Reflections on Faith

Dear friends,

In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.

Andrew S. Odom
Pastor


 

12/19/2017 8:35 AM

Christmas Meaning

12/19/2017 8:35 AM
12/19/2017 8:35 AM
Our heart is glad in God, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)
 
What does Christmas mean to you? I sometimes find myself asking that question. So much of the season is filled with activities that all try to pull you in, promising to point to the meaning of Christmas. Come be wowed at this megachurch over the top Christmas extravaganza. Soothe your eyes with a tour of lights in the great neighborhoods of the city. Laugh with Scrooge and see the Christmas trains at NorthPark Mall. Take a walk through the ice sculptures at the Gaylord. Don't miss this. Be sure to attend that. It's all great fun. You can fill your whole Advent calendar with attraction after attraction to your heart's content. And yet, what does Christmas mean to you? The meaning can easily get lost in the shuffle.
 
One of the things the psalms do so well is re-frame our focus. They turn our attention away from the ways in which we parade meaning in front of each other toward the ways in which we can open ourselves up to what God means to us. "Our heart is glad," says the psalmist, not because of some extravagant thing we have put together to wow an audience, but because we trust in God's holy name. At the end of the day, Christmas is a spirit that fills us with the promise that God will dwell with us. In the midst of all the activity and the attempts to garner our attention, God will come and dwell with us in the Christ child. That is the meaning of Christmas, and our hearts will be glad.
12/12/2017 3:46 PM

Before the Manger

12/12/2017 3:46 PM
12/12/2017 3:46 PM

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

Lately I have been reading a collection of daily devotions written by theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer does not mince words. With rigorous honesty and clarity of faith, he challenges the reader with the good news of Jesus Christ. One line I read this morning states, “No powerful person dares to approach the manger.” This one line alone is a challenge. To come before the manger, we have to let go of all assumptions of power. To come before the manger, we have to drop any notion of influence. To come before the manger, we have to lay down every ounce of who we think we have become, for the manger sits not with the powerful, but with the lowly.

We have such a hard time in this life letting go of things. We cling to the past. We cling to our stuff. We cling to our responsibilities. Over time they start to weigh heavy on our soul. Even the shepherds in the field that the angel speaks to had to leave what they knew for a time in order to come before the manger. This is what the manger does, it draws us out of the life we have fooled ourselves into living and reminds us of the life of the one who is truly in control.

Bonhoeffer puts it best when he asks, “Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, al vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high.” May you come before the manger this year with the spiritual posture of one who has laid it all down.

12/04/2017 8:49 PM

Expect It Anyway

12/04/2017 8:49 PM
12/04/2017 8:49 PM

There is good news for the city of Zion. Shout it as loud as you can from the highest mountain. Don’t be afraid to shout to the towns of Judah, “Your God is here!” (Isaiah 40:9)

A long time ago, Isaiah spoke a word of certainty to a people who were uncertain. He spoke a word of faith to a people who were struggling with theirs. He spoke a word of hope to a people who had run out of things to hope for. Isaiah came to the people of God with a word that comes again to us today. It is a word we need to hear.

In a world where schedules and busyness dominate us with an unrelenting hand, the word we need to hear tells us to not lose heart.

In a world that props up politics over people and rhetoric over relationships, the word we need to hear tells us to not lose faith.

In a world that feels overbearing and heavy and lost and confusing, the word we need to hear tells us to not lose hope.

Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose hope. This is the certainty from which Isaiah preaches. When you're not sure whether you believe or not, believe anyway. When you feel like you don't have the energy to take another step, put your shoes on and take it anyway. When you simply don’t think you can expect anything else from God, expect it anyway. This Advent, expect God to show up. Expect Christ to come. Expect the Holy Spirit to birth a new fire in your heart, for there is good news for you. Your God is here!

11/21/2017 11:12 AM

I Am Thankful For...

11/21/2017 11:12 AM
11/21/2017 11:12 AM
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)
 
We are living in a secular crisis. Generational theorists would tell us that this is the fourth major secular crisis we have had since the founding of our country. Relationships are frayed. Division is high. Conflict feels inevitable. We are in a secular crisis.
 
One thing being in a secular crisis can do is cause us to appreciate what we already have more fully. We can find ourselves having greater appreciation for the places in our lives that are blessed. Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians. Perhaps that is part of the reason he was so thankful for them. “I thank my God every time I remember you,” he tells them. Oh, he gives thanks in other letters too, but not quite like he does here.
 
Taking a cue from Paul, I hope you can spend this week in a place of thanksgiving. One thing, for sure, that I am thankful for is you. I am deeply grateful to be the pastor at Canyon Creek. You are generous givers. You are spiritually vibrant. You are dedicated to the church. You are gracious and warm and authentic in your faith. Like Paul with the Philippians, I too am “constantly praying with joy because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” Thank you for being such a wonderful church. Thank you for simply being who you are. May Christ gift you this season with a spirit of thanksgiving.
10/31/2017 3:49 PM

Giving Like God

10/31/2017 3:49 PM
10/31/2017 3:49 PM
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:4-5)
 
There is no way any of us will ever be able to give like God gives. Not possible. No way. And yet, Paul seems to think that it is still worth a shot. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” he says. He then goes on to talk about how Christ humbled himself to the point of death, giving to the point where he could give no more. He “emptied” himself, Paul tells us. How in the world could we even begin to give like that? How?
 
My answer? I don’t know. I don’t have the foggiest clue. I wish I did know. If I knew how to do that I would bottle it up and sell it in a one-time buy one get one free super special rate. There are televangelists out there who do it. They sell salvation over the airways and call it “sowing a seed,” assuring us that when we do, God will richly bless us in a manner similar to the way Paul describes God exalting Christ in Philippians chapter 2.
 

Here’s this problem, though. Paul would be the first one to tell you that you cannot earn God’s blessing. That is not how God gives, and it is, therefore, not how we should give. God does not give so that we might have faith. God gives because that is who God is. God gives because God is about the business of blessing others. God gives fully and completely because it is simply part of God’s DNA. Even though I cannot give you a “take these three steps” manual for giving like God, what I can say is that if you’re trying to force it, you’re probably not doing it right. Don’t be a “so that” giver. Give because, more and more, it is simply who you are. When you do, Paul would surely say that "it is God who is at work in you."

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